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Life on land by Mark Witton

Fossil Hunters: Unearthing the Mystery of Life on Land

This exhibition explored how life on earth moved from water onto land 360-345 million years ago.
Exhibition information


19 February - 14 August 2016


National Museum of Scotland, Exhibition Gallery 2, Level 3

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Until recently no fossil evidence had been found to explain how vertebrate life stepped from water to land, leading to a gap in our scientific knowledge of evolution. Known as Romer’s Gap, this mystery has been challenging palaeontologists for generations. However, after years of searching, the answers have begun to be unearthed.

In 2008, palaeontologist Stan Wood uncovered a number of fossils which began to reveal this key chapter in the history of evolution, including a notable amphibian specimen nicknamed ‘Ribbo’. Spurred on by these finds, researchers from National Museums Scotland and institutions around the country have been working together to uncover more examples in Scotland.

Fossil of the amphibian specimen nicknamed ‘Ribbo’

Fossil of Ribbo collected from a site in the Whiteadder Water.

Finds featured in the exhibition, including tetrapods (four-legged land vertebrates), fish, plants and land invertebrates, some of which were found as recently as summer 2015, offer unique insights into an ecosystem that existed millions of years ago.

Fossil Hunters introduced the people who uncovered these remarkable finds, discover the scientific techniques used to extract and identify them, and glimpse what life was like before the dinosaurs.

Scientists excavating fossils on a riverbank

Excavation site on the Whiteadder Water.

Research behind this exhibition was conducted in partnership with the Universities of Cambridge, Southampton and Leicester as well as the British Geological Survey.

Inside the exhibition

Supported by

NERC logo Heritage Lottery Fund logo


Header image: Illustration of tetrapods on land © Mark Witton.

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