Marine Mammals

Earth’s major ecosystems: oceans and seas

The Earth is a blue planet: almost three quarters of its surface is covered with water. Of the numerous animals in the world’s oceans, whales are certainly among the most fascinating. The left atrium of Schloss Rosenstein is predominantly dedicated to them, but also features many other highlights such as a great white shark and a saltwater crocodile.

The body size of some whale species is overwhelming. The sei whale that “swims“ in our museum measures 13 metres in length! This huge baleen whale is accompanied by the fossil skeleton of a closely related species, which is only slightly smaller.

As mammals in a marine environment, whales feature many modifications for an aquatic way of life: their forelimbs are modified into fins, the pelvis and hind limbs are reduced to a diminutive size, and oscillation of a large horizontal fluke propels the animal through the water. Similar evolutionary solutions are found in other marine mammals, for instance in sirenians (sea cows and dugongs), the other exclusively aquatic group of mammals.

Seals and sea otters are also excellent swimmers. However, they retain fur and four legs – a compromise between a lifestyle afloat and ashore.

Dugong

Great white shark