Florida Museum of Natural History Angela George


Some pinned butterflies, moths, and bugs in the entrance of the Butterfly Garden exhibit

I was fortunate enough to be able to visit the Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainesville on Thursday and I'm very glad that I went. I have been to many Natural History museums in my lifetime, but I always manage to enjoy new ones because each is unique and offers its own variety of exhibits and specialities. This museum in particular had the butterfly garden, which I really enjoyed, and that was different than any other museum I have been to. Combining the beauty of nature with the beauty of history is brought to a tee in this museum.


Duunnn dunnn... duuuunnnn duun... duuunnnnnnnn dun dun dun dun dun dun dun dun dun dun dunnnnnnnnnnn dunnnn

Perhaps the exhibit in the Florida Museum of Natural History that intrigued me the most was part of the Evolution exhibit that contained multiple jaws of sharks, both living and extinct, and comparing them side-by-side, as shown above. Although I have seen fossils such as these before, the incredible sizes of both the jaws and the teeth never cease to amaze me. Standing besides these almost sculpture-like structures was very humbling and awed me with how small humans are in direct comparison to ancient creatures such as the giant shark jaw shown above. I have always found the ocean interesting, and have also always been astonished by the monumental sizes animals can reach. Historical whales and sharks were even larger than they are now, and that completely boggles my mind!


I made friends with a butterfly that landed on me; he stayed like that on my hand for several minutes and we bonded
A few other butterflies that I made friends with whilst in the Butterfly Garden

Concerning nature and ethics, the butterfly garden brought up the "animals in captivity" debate in my head whilst visiting. There is a certain duality to raising animals in captivity, in enclosed and limited spaces, as it helps humans enjoy nature and can teach a lot, but it also limits the possibilities of life for the animals. Although these animals are "only butterflies", that does not invalidate them as a living creature, entitled by mother nature to free-roaming and a life in the sky. However, in this certain circumstance, I believe that raising butterflies to fruition in the FMNH is not harmful to their overall well-being, as the spaces are well-maintained, well-fed, and very spacious when considering the actual size of a butterfly. However, this can differ animal to animal: killer whales are kept in captivity at Seaworld, still to this day, and they are definitely confined to a very small area as opposed to what they would be offered in mother nature. Animals in captivity is a difficult subject, but I think these circumstances should be examined case-to-case for the well-being of each individual species.


Quotes from Pope John Paul II, John Morley, and Theodosius Dobzhansky, respectively, at the entrance to the exhibit on Evolution
A Mastodon skeleton in the lobby, right outside the evolution exhibit

Something that has always completely mystified me is the mystery, or rather just confusing and mind-boggling facts, of Evolution. The fact that life started as a single cell and therefore evolved into millions and millions of different species over billions of years is just incredible to me. It's difficult to understand how exactly this happened in a vacuum, but it is also incredibly difficult to understand how long exactly is a billion years, much less 300 billion. Nature amazes me to no end, and the Florida Museum of Natural History's evolution exhibit brings to light the incredibleness of this phenomenon. Complete with skeletons of past species, including a giant land sloth that I have never even heard of before, these exhibits show primitive lifeforms and animals way before the humanic "dawn of time". I love looking at skeletons of different species, whether they be land or aquatic, and noticing the not-so-subtle structural differences between their makeup. Even when comparing my own, there is not a huge amount of difference in skeletal makeup than in me and the giant land sloth seen below. It has always been one of my strongest beliefs that evolution is the process to which we owe our lives, and it is the one thing about nature that most confuses and amazes me ceaslessly, and probably will do so to generations and generations to come.

Several exhibits from the Evolution exhibit: a predator and prey and a giant land sloth
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Angela George

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