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Topic Guide: Evolution

An image of a drawing of two skulls; a neanderthal or monkey skull on the left and a modern human on the right

© Wellcome Library, London (cropped)

    • In this topic guide Show Me will explore what museums have to say about evolution:

      What is evolution?

      The Natural History Museum has a very useful web page that explains what evolution is and what the evidence is.

      Scientific theory

      A ‘Scientific Theory’ is different from what we usually think ‘theory’ means. In scientific terms, a theory is something that is acquired through scientific method (which you can read about with the Natural History Museum) and is something that is repeatedly confirmed.

      So even though evolution is a theory, this means that it is something that has a considerable amount of evidence to support it. You can discover how the theory of evolution developed on the Natural History Museum's website.

      Human evolution

      Modern humans are called homo sapiens, but there have been many different species of human. You can learn more about how humans evolved and meet the rest of the early human family at the Natural History Museum.

      Charles Darwin
      In his important work, On the Origin of Species, geologist and naturalist Charles Darwin described how all species of life descended over time from common ancestors. He illustrated this with the 'Tree of Life' – a bit like a family tree, which shows how everyone in your family is related.

      You can see his original sketch of the Tree of Life at the Natural History Museum or take a look at an interactive one, where you can see how humans are related to bananas!

      Find out more about the impact of Darwin’s ideas with two videos from the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History.




      Evolution today?

      It’s taken millions of years for modern humans to evolve into what we are today, but sometimes evolution can work much faster than that. This video from the American Museum of Natural History reveals how birds are adapting – or evolving – after living with the effects of radiation.


      Finally, why not try Transformasaur, a great game by National Museums Scotland where you transform your dinosaur to match the changing conditions around you.

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