News - Whales at the Natural History Museum


Opening in July, a new family exhibition will see visitors to the Natural History Museum having a whale of a time...

Dive through one of the most compelling evolutionary journeys in the forthcoming family exhibition, Whales. The show complements the blue whale skeleton taking centre stage in the Museum’s Hintze Hall this summer.

More than 100 specimens from the Museum’s research collection will be brought out from behind-the-scenes for the first time to show the huge diversity of whales, dolphins and porpoises. Complete skeletons reveal the secret to swimming like a whale and skulls, flippers and jaw bones uncover how they move, breathe, feed and sense their surroundings.

Get up close to the variety of different species, from the vast sperm whale, the largest toothed predator on Earth that’s similar in length to a double decker bus, through to the compact 1.5 metre long harbour porpoise, one of the smallest cetaceans. Explore their remarkable adaptations to ocean living yet how they are surprisingly much more like us than you might expect.

See that, like humans, whales today are sociable mammals that communicate across vast distances and adopt popular behavioural trends. Hear the sounds and songs many species use to attract potential mates and explore how their complex brains enable them to experience a range of emotions.

Richard Sabin, whale expert at the Museum says, ‘Whales are incredibly mysterious and complex creatures, as well as being the giants of the seas. This exhibition brings you face to face with some of the world’s most impressive whale specimens, and shows how we are starting to understand and answer the biggest challenges facing whales today. New techniques and scientific developments are giving us the tools to use specimens including the ones you will see, to monitor human impact, pollution and climate change. This collection is an active resource for protecting whales now and in the future.’


Highlights include:
  • Skulls that reveal how whales sense and their eating habits, including killer whales, Orcinus orca and a pygmy right whale skull, Caperea marginata.
  • Organs showing how whales breathe and digest food, including a sperm whale stomach, Physeter macrocephalus and fin whale aorta, Balaenoptera physalus.
  • Flippers from a blue whale, Balaenoptera musculus and humpback whale, Megaptera novaeangliae, showing their differences in size and swimming style.
  • An immersive experience where you can see how some whales, dolphins and porpoises sense their prey using sound.
Sir Michael Dixon, Director of the Natural History Museum adds, ‘The specimens on show are part of the world’s greatest resource for understanding the ecology and behaviour of whales. Scientists are researching our cetacean collection to uncover the mysteries of these enigmatic creatures and monitor and predict changes in their habitats. Oceans are Earth’s largest natural resource but are under huge pressure from human activities such as over-fishing and pollution. We must protect our oceans for the benefit of future generations.’

Whales kicks off an extended season of events exploring the awesome power of nature and our responsibility to protect our oceans at the Museum running until late 2018.

Whales, the summer family exhibition opens 14th July.

Images - Natural History Museum
Humpback whale © Maria Teresa Lara

Humpback whale © Kerstin Meyer