Life Planet, Natural Science Museum of Barcelona

“Life Planet” interprets today’s Earth as the result of the interaction between the chemical and physical environment of the planet and living things. Rivers, mountains and oceans are inextricably linked to the organisms that inhabit them and together form a global ecosystem that regulates the conditions on the planet.

This vision of the Earth as a whole and of life, which integrates all the disciplines of the natural sciences, is the backbone of this exhibition, which is structured in three areas: ‘The biography of the Earth’, ‘The Earth today ‘and’ The islands of science ‘.

The first, ‘The Biography of the Earth’, describes a journey through the history of life and its evolution with our planet. ‘Earth today’ is the part that explains how the Earth is today. These two areas show the heritage of the Museum. ‘The islands of science’, semi-permanent and renewable areas, are small exhibitions in isolated spaces within the reference exhibition that deal with aspects such as evolution, nomenclature and classification, the Mediterranean, animal behavior, etc.

In addition, the exhibition presents significant improvements in content accessibility for the blind or visually impaired. The 17 interactive tables in the exhibition, which show a total of 50 objects that can be played freely – between original pieces and mock-ups – have implemented embossed outlines of the pieces as well as texts in large characters and in braille. All these resources make possible a tactile route without barriers that can be complemented by the audio guide that users will find at their disposal at the reception of the Museum of Natural Sciences.

The biography of the Earth

Enter the tunnel of time and explore the history of life and the planet from its origins to the present day. Stop in on major evolutionary episodes and discover what Earth was like and when the first living things appeared.

Beginnings of the Universe and Earth: 13.8 billion to 3.8 billion years
A huge explosion creates the Universe and the solar system is formed. The Earth and the Moon form and the first atmosphere around the Earth develops.

Arcane: 3.8 billion to 2.5 billion years
Formation of Ur, the first continent, and the appearance of the prokaryotic cell, the first way of life. The first living things on Earth, the bacteria, appear.

Proterozoic: 2,500 to 542 million years
The continents originate. The eukaryotic cell, the precursor of multicellular beings, appears and life is diversified. The first fungi, protists and ancestors of the plants appear.

Lower Paleozoic: 542 to 359 million years
The large mountain ranges are formed and major climate changes occur. Great explosion of life in the oceans. Mollusks become more complex and adapt to different habitats. The first arthropods and the first aquatic vertebrates appear.

Upper Paleozoic: 359 to 251 million years
Union of continents to form the supercontinent Pangea. Increases the oxygen levels in the atmosphere. Life comes out of the water and conquers the terrestrial environment. The first plants and the first terrestrial vertebrates appear.

Mesozoic: 251 to 65 million years
Fragmentation of the large Pangea continent on smaller continents. Marine invertebrates are significantly diversified. The first dinosaurs and birds appear. The first flowering plants appear. Extensive mass extinction occurs, which means the disappearance of 75% of the species.

Cenozoic: 65 to 0 million years
The continents move to the position they currently occupy. The Alpine orogeny begins and the great mountain ranges appear (the Himalayas, the Atlas, the Rif, the Béticas, the Pyrenees, the Apennines, the Alps, the Balkans and the Carpathians). The Mediterranean Sea is also formed. It is a period with great thermal oscillations and times of glaciations. Mammals occupy most continental environments. The first primates appear, an evolutionary line of which has evolved into humanity today.

Biography today

It explains what our planet is today and what we can find there. It is based on the collections of the Museum and, therefore, shows a good representation of the nature of our country.

In ‘Earth Today’ you can discover the vibrant and diverse world of fossils, animals, plants, algae, fungi, microbes, rocks and minerals:

Rocks and minerals
What is the Earth made of? The planet and its atmosphere underpin life, but many of its current characteristics are the result of its interaction with life.

The fossil record
The remains of organisms that have lived in the past and have been buried, as well as the traces left by the activity of living beings, are the testimony, memory and archives of the history of life on the planet. In Catalonia there are valuable paleontological sites that have contributed many pieces to the Museum’s heritage.

Invisible to the naked eye, microorganisms have been the sole protagonist of approximately 85 percent of the planet’s history, both at sea and in emerging lands. In addition, they have a very varied metabolism and occupy any habitat, even those where life would be impossible for other organisms. Their smallness often causes them to be ignored.

Algae is the link between the microbial world and the plant world. Like microorganisms, they are also little known.

Its key role in the ecosystem is the capture of energy through photosynthesis, which is, however, not exclusive to this group (algae and other protists and also some groups of bacteria are photosynthetic).

Long considered plants, fungi are a group that shares characteristics with plants and animals. Their main function is the decomposition of organic matter. The Museum has from now on a collection of mushrooms from Catalonia plus a display case of fungi and lichens.

The animal world is perhaps the most colorful and well-known to humans, especially large animals. But the planet is inhabited by thousands of species that occupy many ecological niches and play important roles in food webs. It shows what animals are, how they function, and the adaptations they have made throughout evolution to feed and move.

The biography of the Earth

The exhibition includes the projection of faithful recreations of what life was like in each period, based on scientific documentation in which the Museum’s curators, curators and documentalists have actively collaborated.

There are also multimedia devices as well as touch screens, which, as a news story, capture the most significant events of each period and with which the visiting audience can interact.

In summary you will find:

Six great projections that recreate the existing life in each period
25 interactive screens with the main “news” of geological changes and the main “inventions” of life
70 bells with rocks and fossils from the Museum’s collection, each of which tells a story within the history of the Earth

Earth today
The collections collection, with more than 4,500 pieces, is the absolute protagonist of this space of 1,700 square meters, which has given priority to visual outreach and has placed the explanations of the contents in interactive and audiovisual. The expository discourse in each area of ‘The Earth Today’ is organized using four museographic resources – interactive tables, leaderboards, display cabinets with collection materials and deepening modules – that help to understand the natural world. Some of these elements, equipped with the latest interactive and audiovisual technology, provide the visitor with tools so that he can choose how far he wants to go in each subject. In this way, the Museum proposes a clear and understandable thread but at the same time invites anyone who wishes to observe the collections with the vision of a scientist. The exhibition layout of ‘The Earth Today’ invites you to take a free tour choosing the area that may interest you the most. The museographic elements guide the visiting public through the set where you will find two rest areas, one visual and one sound, located at different points in the enclosure, which will allow you to take a break on the route.

Interactive tables
They are accessible to the visually impaired and have been produced as an interactive audiovisual resource. They allow you to explore and deepen the concepts presented in each area. To illustrate them, the Museum offers, without barrier, the objects of the collection, such as mock-ups or replicas, to the public, proposing an object synergy – an interactive display – that visitors can visit from the first level. ‘interaction, allows you to clarify the basics, have a scientific vision and get into the topic through the different levels of reading proposed.

Classification panels
In the areas of fungi, microbes, plants and animals, a panel presents the classification of the group and its phylogenetic relationship with others. Various monitors display real-time images of the species in the major groups in which they are classified, in order to show their diversity and variability.

Showcases and tables showcase
The showcases and display cases show the specimens in the collection in a logical order in order to explain concepts such as: moving in a fluid, flying, moving animals, etc.

In the case of microbes, the showcase tables illustrate the diversity of these microorganisms, while in the field of fungi, two showcases explain the relationship of fungi to humans and their diversity, as well as the great variety of mushrooms that are in Catalonia.

Plants show us how they have been diversified to suit all environments and the algae display shows the different ways to preserve them for study. In the field of fossils is a collection of pieces from sites in Catalonia.

The new showcases in the exhibition are equipped with the most modern preservation systems, with automatic climate control for zoology and humidity control for everything else.

More in depth
Each area has a small module with a screen that shows an audiovisual in which a scientist expert in the subject assesses the importance and uses of collections in his research projects and explains the ongoing projects:

Fossils and research on the evolution of life (Dr. Salvador Moyà, Catalan Institute of Paleontology)
Elements of the future (Dr. Joan Carles Melgarejo, Faculty of Geology, UB)
The lake and the ponds of Banyoles (Dr. Ricard Guerrero, Institut d’Estudis Catalans)
The collections of mushroom banks (Dr. Olga Genilloud, Fundación Medina)
Germplasm banks (Dr. Cèsar Blanché, Faculty of Pharmacy, UB)
The underground fauna (Dr. Xavier Bellés, Institute of Evolutionary Biology, CSIC-UPF)


Banded Sandstone. The action of erosion and sedimentation due to the wind can create specimens that appear to be the work of human hands.

Made of hexagonal crystals of intense green and unusual size, this specimen is one of the museum’s most valuable minerals.

Campanile giganteum
A fossil mollusc that is a unique piece of the great Baron palaeontology collection, acquired in 1891 to form part of the initial patrimony of the Martorell Museum.

This is an extraordinary mineral due to the size and quality of the crystal, and this specimen shows unusual transparency.

Ginkgo huttoni
Fossilized gingko leaves. This tree is considered to be a living fossil, as it still grows in many places on the planet.

Banded Iron
This rock, with alternating bands of silicates and iron oxides, is one of the oldest witnesses to the presence of life on Earth.

Montsecosuchus depereti
This is the museum’s most emblematic fossil vertebrate, the first crocodile discovered from the lower Cretaceous in Europe.

Cephalaria fragosoana. This plant was collected by Dr. Pius Font i Quer, the founder of the first botanic garden of Barcelona, and comes from his early expeditions to Morocco in the 1930s.

Schotia brachypetala
The yellow structure, the aril of this seed, attracts birds, which eat the seed and disperse it, thereby making up for the plant’s lack of mobility.

Fungi Display Case
Enjoy the diversity of the fungi of Catalonia, thanks to the process of lyophilization [freeze-drying] that preserves them permanently as if they were in their natural habitat.

Prognatodon. One of the two only replica in the world of this marine lizard that lived eighty million years ago in Colorado.

Northern Gannets
The appearance of the individuals of the same species can vary greatly between juveniles and adults. Discover how Sula bassana changes until it reaches adulthood.

You can see this seaweed, which is, of course, normally found in the sea, and discover the hidden world of these organisms that share characteristics with both plants and microbes.

Microbe Display Table
These organisms are invisible to the naked eye, but the museum has created stabilized colonies of microbes that allow them to be seen and easily distinguished.

Ground Beetle
The little Ildobates neboti, the icon of biospeleology, which was described as a species by Professor Francesc Español, director of the former Museum of Zoology from 1966 to 1977.

Replica of the skeleton of a hominid of the species Australopithecus afarensis found in 1974 in Ethiopia, which dated the appearance of bipedal gait to approximately 3.2 million years ago.

Natural Science Museum of Barcelona
The Natural Science Museum of Barcelona is a natural history museum located in the city of Barcelona. It is made up of five sites located in different parts of the city: the Natural Science Museum of Barcelona, located in the Forum Building in the Parc del Fòrum, the Botanical Garden of Barcelona and the Historical Botanical Garden, located in the Parc de Montjuïc, and the Martorell Museum and the Nature Laboratory (Castle of the Three Dragons), located in the Parc de la Ciutadella.

The Museum of Natural Sciences of Barcelona is an institution with more than 140 years of history that conserves a heritage of more than three million units in the fields of mineralogy, petrology, paleontology, zoology and botany.

This collection has been enriched year after year by specimens obtained through private donations, agreements with the Zoo and Natural Parks of Catalonia, and also by the Museum itself.

The Museum’s mission is aligned with the Buffon Declaration, agreed in 2007 by 93 natural history institutions (museums, research institutes, botanical gardens, zoos…) in 36 countries and on all continents, which states that the Science is vital for the sustainable management of biodiversity and ecosystems and, through it, for the survival of the human population on this planet.