The Hall of Vertebrates of the Brooklyn Museum (Room 4 on plan), leading out of Room 5 toward the west, contains exhibits of all the important groups of backboned animals from fish to man, arranged so that, by passing up the left or south side of the room and down the right or north side, the animals are considered in evolutionary sequence; also each group or series is arranged so that the lower or simpler forms appear at the left, and therefore the exhibits should be studied from left to right.
The first floor case on the left contains an introductory series of vertebrates like fishes, preceded by the lancelets, the lowest of the backboned animals, having neither skull, jaws nor brain and in which the skeleton is represented only by a slender longitudinal cord. The hagfish, lamprey and other intermediate types are also shown, and, on the right, examples of a typical bony fish, showing skeletal characteristics, and a model of the anatomy.
Various tropical fishes are exhibited on the other side of this case, and, in cases behind and in front of it, going up the hall, examples of the various orders of fishes are shown, together with models of many of their extinct relatives. A diagram, on the right-hand end of the first upright floor case, shows the various deep-sea fishes and the depths at which they live. Models of deep-sea fishes are shown in a near-by case; the phosphorescent organs possessed by some species are their most striking characteristics.
Here in this vertebrates part of the Brooklyn Museum a model of the great white shark, or man-eater, is exhibited on the north wall, and plates from the United States Fish Commission series, representing the important food and game fishes of North America, are also shown.
Following the fishes, there are other vertebrates, like the amphibians, intermediate between water and land animals, are exhibited in the next floor case, and here an enlarged model of the frog's anatomy, with skeleton, indicates the main structural differences involved in the change of conditions. Salamanders, toads and other representative amphibians are here exhibited, and, on the other side of the same case, a mounted American alligator and skull of a crocodile assist in making clear the difference between crocodiles and alligators, emphasized elsewhere.
Facing these, on the north wall, is an exhibit illustrating the characteristics of the Class Reptilia, which, with many descriptive labels, provides the visitor with a comprehensive view of general and special points of structure of this class of animals.
On the wall behind this exhibit are maps showing the distribution of dangerous snakes and of amphibians, and a painting at the side shows the color changes of the common chameleon.
Proceeding up the hall, exhibits of crocodiles, snakes and lizards, including the more important and interesting types of these vertebrate animals, among which may be mentioned the rare tuatara from New Zealand, a primitive lizard-like reptile belonging to an order of which every other family is now extinct. Models of the extinct Plesiosaurus, a marine reptile with crocodilian characteristics, of the Stegosaurus, an extinct armored dinosaur of the Jurassic period, and of an Ichthyosaur, a fish-like lizard representing a group of rep-tiles abundant in Triassic times, help to relate the existing species of reptiles with those of ages of the past. The Ichthyosaurs were adapted to life in the sea, having four paddles and a powerful tail for swimming.
Typical examples of harmless and poisonous snakes are shown and the lizards are especially well represented; a study collection of these is available for students and includes many species of snakes, lizards, iguana, horned toad, running lizards, blue and green lizards of Europe and the skink of Egypt, as well as the Congo monitor, the Gila monster and others.
The collection of vertebrates is completed with the fresh-water turtles of the Brooklyn Museum, with skeletons, models and maps of distribution, appears next. The specimens include the rare matamata of South America, giant tortoise of the Galapagos Islands and examples of the leather-back, hawksbill and other important turtles. A pictorial representation shows the extinct giant sea turtle found in the Cretaceous deposits of South Dakota. In all these exhibits the inclusion of skeletons with the mounted specimens makes possible a clearer understanding of the animals under consideration.
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