Exhibit Highlights: Life and Earth Gallery

The Mind Museum continues to enhance, update and add new interactive exhibits to its five galleries. In the continuation of this series, we'll visit two galleries in this entry and take a closer look at the new exhibits developed for them this year. 

Life Gallery

The Tree of Life1 2

As evolutionary biologist Theodosius Dozhansky wrote in his 1973 essay, "Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution." Truly, the theory of evolution by natural selection unifies all of biology, and this is why the Tree of Life exhibit branches out all throughout the Life Gallery, representing common descent and the evolutionary relationships of species through time.

All three Domains are represented, from the Archaea, to the Bacteria, and the Eukarya, which includes us primates. At the base of the Tree is the Hillis Plot. Developed by David Hillis, this circular diagram shows the relationships of thousands of species to each other, and also highlights how human beings are only a tiny fraction of this biodiversity.

Lastly, branches emerge from the base, with nodes for species to represent major taxonomic groups.

Brains of Other Creatures3 4 5

While we often associate intelligence, problem-solving, and other brain functions with humans and other mammals, evidence shows that other animals are much smarter than we've previously thought. The exhibit features different kinds of animals, what nervous systems they possess, and what tasks they're capable of doing.

Animals evolve different kinds of nervous systems depending on their environments. Some invertebrates, like the jellies and sea stars, have diffuse nervous systems because they live in the ocean. Because they have to sense predators and food from all directions, their sense organs are scattered.

Other animals (e.g. vertebrates and invertebrates like the insects) which possess bilateral symmetry have a nerve cord with a large ganglion or anterior cluster of nerves called the brain. This aggregates their sense organs in one area, which is handy as they move about their environments and gather food.

The octopus displays sophisticated behavior, even comparable to that of vertebrates. With these traits, they can compete with the vertebrates in the ocean. Ants are also an interesting group to study because of their capacity for collective intelligence: they can organize themselves and solve problems quickly in their colonies. 

The Human Body Clock6

Within a 24-hour period, our bodies undergo cyclical processes because of an internal body clock in the brain called the suprachiasmatic nucleus. These processes and patterns are called Circadian rhythms, and are influenced by factors such as light, hormone levels, and even our own daily schedules. These patterns were established over the course of human evolution because they help our bodies to keep track of basic functions such as sleeping and metabolism.

The exhibit shows you what goes on in your body at certain times of the day, and will also give you the answers to questions like, When are we most alert?, When is the best time to exercise? or When is my metabolism most active?

Earth Gallery

Bacteria and Viruses7,8

Microbes are often maligned because of their association with disease, but out of the half a million known species of bacteria, only around 200 are pathogenic. Other species have a harmless or even beneficial relationship with humans, as they are necessary for ecosystems to thrive and are also utilized in biotechnology and industry.

An enhancement on the exhibit on the Three Domains of life, this exhibit shows pictures of bacterial species (micrographs and colonies inoculated onto agar) as well as their descriptions. Examples include Yersinia pestis, Rhizobium sp., and Salmonella sp.

The exhibit also features viruses such as the T4 bacteriophage, the Tobacco Mosaic virus, and the H5N1 virus.

In the last part of the series, we feature the new exhibits in the Universe and Technology galleries. If you'd like to visit the museum, book a trip with us, and check out these exhibits for yourself!

To learn more about the Mind Museum's upcoming and regular activities, visit our website, and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!


1. University of California Museum of Paleontology. (n.d.). "Phylogenetic systematics, a.k.a. evolutionary trees." Retrieved from Understanding Evolution website.
2. Woese, C., Kandler, O., Wheelis, M. (1990). Towards a natural system of organisms: Proposal for the domains Archaea, Bacteria, and Eucarya. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 87(2): 4576-4579.
3. Bonabeau, E. et al. (1999). Swarm intelligence: From natural to artificial systems. OUP USA.
4. Gordon, D. (1999). Ants at work. NY: W.W. Norton.
5. Hochner, B., Shomrat, T., Fiorito, G. (2006). The octopus: A model for a comparative analysis of the evolution of learning and memory mechanisms. The Biological Bulletin 210(3): 308-317.
6. Wolverton, M. (2013). "Living by the clock: The science of chronobiology." Retrieved from http://news.pennmedicine.org/inside/2013/05/living-by-the-clock-the-science-of-chronobiology.html
7. Hogg, S. (2005). Essential microbiology. UK: John Wiley & Sons.
8. Madigan, M. et al. (2012). Brock biology of microorganisms. CA: Pearson Education, Inc. 

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