THE INVERTEBRATE EXHIBITS
Modern invertebrate animals
The extant or modern invertebrate animals are displayed systematically in four sections to illustrate their diversity and show how invertebrates have adapted to different environments.
The displays also describe the expeditions which contributed specimens to the Natural History Collections and the research of previous Professors of Natural History. In particular, James Hartley Ashworth ( Professor of Natural History, 1927-1936) who raised the funds to build the Ashworth Laboratories with the museum suite, which houses the Natural History Collections, and for collecting many of the specimens. This story is further described in the History of the Natural History Collections.
Our fossils of extinct invertebrates and vertebrates are displayed on a sculpture representing the evolution of animals from the Cambrian to the present.
Biological classification or Systematics is really two subjects in one. Together they organise our knowledge of the animal kingdom and make sense of the enormous diversity of its members.
The first subject - TAXONOMY - provides a filing system and a way of summarising our knowledge. This science was founded by Carl Linnaeus (1707- 1778), who noted the hierarchical pattern of Nature whereby small groups could be assembled into larger groups. He devised names for these ranks - species, genus, order, phylum. Each animal has a generic and a specific name - together they denote the individual species. Traditionally a scientific name is given in italics. As our displays are arranged systematically, in a taxonomic framework, related animals are displayed together.
The second subject deals with the PHILOSOPHICAL FRAMEWORK of the animal kingdom It tries to explain why some animals are more closely related and others less so. Modern explanations are evolutionary ones based on observations on living animals and fossils, using DNA/molecular analyses. Modern approaches to biological classification are explained in the description of The Tree of Life.