They don’t speak, but they tell you everything about life. They are the 7,000 incredibly lifelike specimens in the Grande Galerie de l’Évolution. A mythical place renovated in 1994, where modernity stands alongside history and science to tell us the great adventure of biodiversity.
from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., closed on Tuesdays
Grande Galerie de l’Évolution
36 rue Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire
From €7 to €14
The Gallery of Evolution
On the ground floor, you are greeted by two marine mammal skeletons - the gigantic southern right whale and the blue whale. Further along, Wheke the giant squid waves his tentacles. All around you weave shoals of tuna and mackerel. You have entered the world of silence. See how life flourishes in the darkness of the abyss, how coral reefs are formed and how shoreline species live with the ebb and flow of the tides and the phases of the light.
From one land to the other
Terrestrial species adapt as well. On the first floor, the elephant heads the caravan of animals from the African savanna. Large mammals and their predators follow closely. Buffalos, bubals, gnus, giraffes and zebras, hyenas, wild dogs and cheetahs - guess who eats who.
After the savanna, it’s off to South America. Perhaps you’ll recognise the tenants of the tall metal sculpture which reproduces the layers of the rainforest. At the bottom are the tapir, anteater, armadillo, anaconda and jaguar, and higher up are the sloths, the blue macaw and the Margay cat.
In other latitudes, the Saharan animals (dromedary, gazelle and Fennec fox) seem to have nothing in common with those of the Arctic and the Antarctic (polar bear, emperor penguin and Greenland seal). Apart from their extreme living conditions!
The evolutionary adventure
On the upper balconies, you will find out more about species diversity. How? By understanding the history of living organisms and the journey of the naturalists who deciphered it. Now it’s time to look into the mysteries unveiled by anatomy, fossils and molecules. Get to know Lamarck, Darwin and Mendel. Discover the key concepts for understanding life - the theory of evolution, genetic laws, family ties and the classification of species…
And where is Man in all this?
His ascendancy over nature is marked by technical changes altering his way of feeding or moving around, such as gathering, hunting, the domestication of species, changes in the landscapes, pollution and so on. Moreover, from the time he appears, changes are no longer measured using the geological time scale, but in decades. The second level of the Grande Galerie de l’Évolution takes you into the realms of nature conservation.
A theme which is continued in one of the most moving rooms - the room for endangered or extinct species. The dodo from the island of Mauritius is no more, but the Sumatran tiger can still be saved…
A mythical location
The Grande Galerie has also undergone many changes. Today, the magic of the place created by Jules André in 1889 remains intact: a huge hall encircled by three balconies bathed in natural light from a 1,000 m² glass roof. A fine example of metal architecture, the blend of cast iron, glass and woodwork has been combined with new materials to showcase the fully restored collections in their best possible light.
The museological revolution
The Grande Galerie de l’Évolution underwent a real transformation for its reopening in 1994. Renovated by the architects and scenographer Borja Huidobro, Paul Chemetov and René Allio, it is a magnificent and absolutely thrilling place. And with a completely new museological approach, the collections now carry an important message. Diversity results from the long evolution of living organisms in a multitude of environments which it is our duty to preserve. That’s what you’re bound to be thinking after your visit. Remember to spread the word as you leave…