On permanent exhibition
Virtual Earth takes the form of a Gaiasphere, an interactive
digital theatre in the form of a large (3.2 m diameter) back-projected
hemisphere with which animations of changes happening on the Earth’s
surface can be shown. From a touch screen, visitors are able to select
different views of our changing Earth, such as the Earth at night,
ozone hole evolution, Earth surface temperatures, Earth core
structure, and interactive atmospheric predictions. Further animations
will be developed in the future. Virtual Earth enables a better
understanding of climate change within a global perspective. The
exhibition is funded by the Lotteries Board.
Enquiries: Valerie Mienies, Tel. 021 481 3897 or email
Above left: Installation view of Virtual
Earth, Iziko South African Museum. Photograph by Iziko
Photographer, Carina Beyer.
African Dinosaurs is about dinosaurs from origin to extinction. It
features two huge skeletons from North Africa, the herbivorous
Jobaria and a fish-eating Suchomimus, as well as skulls
of mega-carnivores, Carcharodontosaurus and Sarchosuchus.
Realistic dioramas of ancient Karoo landscapes with fleshed-up
reconstructions of some of our South African dinosaurs help bring
the fossils back to life. These include a hatchlings scene based on
a very rare specimen of dinosaur eggs containing tiny
Enquiries: Valerie Mienies, Tel. 021 481 3897 or email
WONDERS OF NATURE
The exhibition comprises a selection of 20 objects highlighting the
beauty and diversity of natural forms across space and time. Amongst
others, fossilized freshwater fish from the Triassic period, ammonites
from the Jurassic, and the petrified skull of a 250- million-year-old
mammal-like reptile contrast starkly with the more recent antlers of a
moose, a whale skull and vertebra, the shell of a giant clam, a turtle
carapace and a piece of chalice coral. Older, and even more enduring,
are giant twinned quartz crystals from Namaqualand, and an iron
meteorite that may date back to the beginning of the Solar System.
Diictodon, pictured here, is one of the ‘stars’ of the Fossil Stories
exhibition at the Iziko South African Museum. A small plant-eating
reptile from 250 million year-old Upper Permian rocks of the Karoo,
Diictodon lived close to rivers and streams that ran through the
ancient South African landscape at that time.
Two entwined skeletons of Diictodon are shown here. They were
discovered by Paul October during a field trip in the Nuweveld
Mountains behind Beaufort West. The specimens were complete enough for
detailed measurements and a reconstruction of the animal as it may
have appeared in life is shown here as well.
More is known about Diictodon than most other Karoo reptiles; its
footprints have been found in several localities, and spiral burrows,
preserved as corkscrew-like structures, contain fossil remains in the
underground chambers. This is probably where the animals lived while
avoiding extreme temperature conditions or carnivorous predators.
Nests of very young specimens have also been discovered, but no
evidence of eggs has been found.
Diictodon is almost unknown in other parts of the world. A single
specimen, from rocks of the same age as the South African ones, has
been found in central China, which was far removed from southern
Africa, even in remote Permian times.
Iziko South African Museum has a beautiful, now iconic, cast of the
first living coelacanth discovered. This cast forms the centrepiece of
a new display that will include information on the coelacanth’s
evolutionary history, its biology – including its special features –
as well as audiovisual footage of live coelacanths. Fossilised remains
of these fish will also make up part of the exhibition.
STONE BONES OF THE ANCIENT KAROO
This exhibition has been 250 million years in the making. It
features the fossilised skeletons of long-extinct reptiles that ruled
the land areas of the world some 50 million years before the
dinosaurs. Highlights include five large fossilised skeletons of
mammal-like reptiles, supported by graphics portraying what they might
have looked like in the flesh. Two walk-round dioramas called
“Scavengers” and “Grubbers” feature finely sculpted life-sized models
of these animals in scenarios that have been reconstructed from the
actual fossils on display.
OUR PLACE IN THE UNIVERSE
display depicting a cosmic zoom to view the universe on an ever increasing
scale, reaching back to almost the very beginning of our universe.
An open display featuring three large iron meteorites.
THE BOONSTRA DIORAMAS
Evidence of life in the Karoo from 300 million years ago; dioramas of
ancient Karoo reptiles; fossil mammals of the Cape four million years
A unique collection of whale casts and skeletons, to be seen from
all floors; includes a 20.5 metre blue whale skeleton.
WHALES AND DOLPHINS
The whale and dolphin exhibit includes 16 casts of whales and
dolphins: Humpback Whale, Layard’s Beaked whale, Cuvier’s Beaked
Whale, Orca or Killer Whale, Sperm Whale, Pilot Whale, Humpback
Dolphin, Bottlenose Dolphin, Heaviside’s Dolphin, Common Dolphin,
Dusky Dolphin, Spotted Dolphin, Striped Dolphin, Fraser’s Dolphin,
Risso’s Dolphin and the Antarctic Dolphin.
Shark World is one of the world's best and most comprehensive
exhibits on Chondrichthyians - the order of sharks, skates, rays and
chimeras - in the world. A key attraction is the life-size, 2+ meter
high model of the jaws of the Megatooth Shark, probably the largest
predator the world has ever known. An AV centre presents stunning
footage of sharks in their natural environments and deals with issues
round shark conservation.
WORLD OF WATER
Depicting life in our oceans. The Sunlit Sea exhibit shows a kelp
forest habitat and animals of the Open Ocean including a 4.9 m white
shark, a leatherback turtle and a broadbill swordfish. The latest
addition is a full sized model of a
Squid - Architeuthis, one of the most accurate models
available. We have one of the largest collections of giant squid
in the world.
Animal life in the sub-Antarctic region.
Mainly southern African mammals, including a foal of the extinct
and exotic birds, avian evolution, dioramas of waterbirds and seabirds.
NORFOLK ISLAND PINE
Noteworthy events during the lifetime
of this tree, planted about 1850 in the Public Gardens. Tree struck
by lightning, felled and removed 1939.
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