It’s widely accepted that everybody likes dinosaurs. It’s a universal truth, almost everyone squealed with excitement when the Jurassic World trailer first aired (me included). Likewise, a large amount of people have just raised their voice in indignation at the loss of an iconic, skeletal figure – Dippy the Natural History Museum diplodocus. The decision to replace Dippy with the largest animal to have lived, the blue whale, has proven to be a real bone of contention (pardon the pun) with many museum goers. I however, am not one of them.
The world’s oceans are in a state. Ocean sea surface temperatures are rising and this is causing a wide range of problems. Sensitive coral reefs, some of the most diverse and beautiful habitats in the ocean, are being wiped out. Non-native species are colonising coastal waters and in doing so are causing ecological effects that we are only beginning to unravel. The World Ocean Assessment I is an attempt to unify our current knowledge on the state of the oceans, the draft of which is now available. However, this document is not easy reading, and it is the job of researchers to communicate the findings of this report to a wider audience. Whilst people are finally starting to take note of our oceans plight, many people still continue to bury their heads in the sand.
The Natural History Museum is one the largest natural history collections in the world, and many believe that curating this collection is the only role of the museum. However, it is also a thriving research and conservation organisation, and they actively engages the public with science education and conservation issues. As such a respected and renowned museum, they bear a responsibility to encourage others to sit up and take notice of the natural world. The new exhibit in the main hall is an example of this in action. The impressive skeleton of the blue whale provides the perfect opportunity to inform people about the oceans and aquatic habitats. Whilst Dippy was iconic, the museum has a responsibility to inform people of the threats posed to the oceans. Dinosaurs are creatures that seem like mythical beasts, they appeal to our imagination and pull on the fancies of adult and child alike. However, the modern world has species just as wondrous, awe inspiring and the newly installed whale has an opportunity to become just as seminal as Dippy. Who isn’t impressed by an animal so large that a human could crawl through their arteries? Or an animal that can dive down to 1,640 feet below the surface? Let a lone an animal who’s ancestors used to be a land living mammal like us? Or how about an animal that needs our help to survive?
It’s unfortunate that Dippy has to go, but if she doesn’t we run the risk of losing much more. Stand aside Dippy, say hello to Wendy (Although the museum hasn’t named the whale yet, I do hope this catches on) the Whale.