Sunday, June 8, 2008

Incredible cetaceans!

Incredible cetaceans ! (Incroyables cétacés !) That's the name of an exhibition that begins June 11 in Paris' Natural History Museum, located in the Jardin des Plantes (right next to the Austerlitz railroad station.) Anyone planning to be in Paris between then and May 25, 2009, should be sure to check it out. My wife and I attended a press preview yesterday, and we both learned a lot (yes, even science writers, ie me, and whale lovers, ie my wife, had a lot to learn about whales and their relatives.) For example, it really never registered on us that cetaceans were originally land mammals that later adapted to life in the sea, that their closest living land-lubber relative is the hippopotamus, and that the blow holes of whales started out as a typical terrestrial nostril but then walked evolutionarily back over the top of their heads until it reached the top. The museum pulls dozens of cetacean skeletons out of its vast basement collection to make these scientific points. Oh, and the exhibition is kid-friendly, and, in what I hope is a new trend for French museums, includes full English translations along with the French legends. Don't miss it!

PS--While you are waiting for your next trip to Paris, here is a brief cetacean primer.

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