Yorkshire Museum

Extinct: A Way of Life

This fun, family-orientated gallery welcomes us into a world of weird and wonderful creatures which have lived on our planet over millions of years.

The sheer variety of different species which have come and gone and of those still around today is reflected in the first display, which shows off fossils and animals of all shapes and sizes.

We learn about how vast numbers of creatures died out in four different “mass extinctions” millions of years ago and how others thrived afterwards.

Dinosaurs and Sea Monsters

Then comes the fifth and most famous mass extinction – the one which killed the dinosaurs.

We enter this section over a set of real dinosaur footprints, set under a glass floor, and can stop to get weighed to find out which dinosaur we match the closest in kilograms! Try matching different dinosaurs to their footprints and even dress up as a dinosaur.

Round the corner we are met with the stunning sight of three huge sea reptiles from the time of the dinosaurs, a giant ichthyosaur, and suspended above it a plesiosaur and a pliosaur.

There’s the chance to find out more about what these predators ate by examining ichthyosaur poo!

Modern extinctions

After the dinosaurs disappeared life on Earth became as we know it today, but individual extinctions kept on happening.

Dominating this section is a spectacular skeleton of the extinct moa, a flightless bird which lived in the forests of New Zealand. Try measuring yourself against this 2m tall creature.

Here we also find the bones of a Dodo, the antlers of a Giant Deer, a pair of Great Auks, a Passenger Pigeon, and the tusk of a Woolly Mammoth – all species long gone.

Other animals and birds on display are still under threat of extinction, like the Red Squirrel, the Puffin and the humble House Sparrow.

The other side of the story

A lion skeleton leaps out of the wall as we enter the final section of this exhibition, just one example of an endangered species which can benefit from conservation efforts.

From the ceiling hangs a huge whale skull. After nearly being driven to extinction by human hunters, whales are now increasing in numbers again after the practice was outlawed.

Similar stories are told all around this uplifting gallery which features video and sound – such as the Large Blue butterfly, which died out in the UK but has now been reintroduced and the coelacanth, an ancient fish believed to be extinct then re-discovered in the 20th century.