The scientific tourist #92 — comparative cetaceans

This week’s image is another from the Gallery of Palaeontology and Comparative Anatomy (Galerie de paléontologie et d’anatomie comparée), at the National Museum of Natural History in Paris, France:

A scientific tourist installment nearly a year ago showed you the second (palaeontology) floor of the gallery. This image comes from the ground floor, dedicated to comparative anatomy. As you can see, the pride of place on this floor is devoted to cetaceans — whales, dolphins, porpoises, and their close relatives.

As with the second floor, the first floor of the gallery is (if only inadvertently) a bit of a metamuseum — while displaying the skeletons of a wide variety of animals, it also displays the 18th century approach to the science it contains. At the time, modern theories of genetics and biology were still far in the future, and so comparative anatomy was the best (and nearly only) way to understand how our animal world came to look the way it does.

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