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A pictorial history of life on Earth, from exhibits at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington DC.

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A fragment of the Murtchison meteorite, containing amino acids--the building blocks of life. About 4.5 billion years old.

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Banded iron formation. The appearance of oxygen in the atmosphere as a result of photosynthetic bacteria caused iron in the oceans to oxidize, forming these banded iron deposits. 3.7 billion years ago.

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Fossil stromatolite.  Stromatolites are built up layer by layer, by bacteria. They have been found as far back as 3.5 billion years.

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Ediacara flindersi, a fossil jellyfish-like organism, and namesake for the Ediacaran fauna, the earliest known multicellular life. Found in Australia. 600 million years old.

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Dickensonia, another Ediacaran.

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A reconstruction of Ediacaran life.

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Aysheaia, a wormlike creature from the Burgess Shale Fauna. Canada, about 520 million years ago.

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Marrella, a crablike member of the Burgess Shale Fauna.

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Wiwaxia, another Burgess Shale resident.

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Opabinia, an odd Burgess Shale animal with five large stalked eyes.

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Crinoids, or "sea lilies", from the Ordovician period about 480 million years ago. They are animals, not plants.

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Phacops, a common trilobite from the Devonian period around 350 million years ago.

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A fossil Eurypterid, known as "sea scorpions".

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Reconstructed Euypterid, about five feet long.

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A reconstruction of Ordovician life, about 450 million years ago.

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Dunkleosteus, a large placoderm fish from the Devonian period.

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Fossil Eusthenopteron, a lobe-finned fish that lived about 385 million years ago.

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Reconstructed Eusthenopteron on land.

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Baragwanathia, an early land plant from the Devonian, 380 million years ago.

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Pelosaurus, an early amphibian.

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Eryops, a large amphibian from Texas, 270 million years ago.

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Seymouria, an early reptile. 270 million years ago.

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Fossilized eggs.  The shelled egg allowed reptiles to reproduce on land.

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Fossilized cycad plant.

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Dimetrodon, a predatory reptile from the Triassic period. 280 million years ago.

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The name "Dimetrodon" means "two-measured teeth", and the differing tooth sizes show that it was an early ancestor of mammals.

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Lystrosaurus, one of the few survivors of the Permian extinction event, 252 million years ago, that wiped out over 90% of all life on Earth .

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Cynognathus, a mammal-like reptile from the Triassic period.

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Ammonite.  Marine relatives of squids, common in the Triassic and Jurassic.

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Allosaurus, dinosaur from the Jurassic period. 150 million years ago.

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Stegosaurus, another Jurassic dinosaur.

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Tylosaurus, one of the mososaurs--giant marine lizards from the time of the dinosaurs that were closely related to modern monitor lizards.

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Pliosaur, a short-necked version of the Plesiosaurs that were common in Mesozoic seas.

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Fossilized eggs of Maiasaura in their nest.

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Hesperornis, a primitive toothed diving bird from the late Cretaceous. 75 million years ago.

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Edmontosaurus, one of the duckbill dinosaurs.

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Tyrannosaurus rex. Late Cretaceous.

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Zygorhiza, an early whale. About 39 million years ago.

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Uintatherium, a 30-million year old rhinoceros relative that lived in Wyoming.

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Orohippus, an early horse from North America.

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Diatryma, one of the large "terror birds" that lived in North America during the Miocene period.

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Smilodectes, a lemur-like primate that lived in Wyoming. About 55 million years old.

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Acrophoca, an early seal. Lived about 10 million years ago. Found in marine deposits in Peru.

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A fossilized Jack fish from Italy, Eocene era.

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Megatherium.  A giant ground sloth that lived in North and South America during the Ice Age.

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Wooly Mammoth. About 10,000 years ago.

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Mastodon.  While mammoths were grazers who lived on plains and tundra, mastodons were browsers who lived in forested land.

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Glyptodont. An armored relative of the armadillo.

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Skull of North American Lion, which lived in the US after the Ice Age, about 12,000 years ago.  It was 50% bigger than the modern African Lion.

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Smilodon, the Saber-Toothed Cat.

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Sahelanthropus, the earliest known hominin. 7.65 million years ago.

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Kenyanthropus. 3.5 million years.

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Australopithecus afarensis. 3 million years.

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A afarensis, "Lucy".

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Australopithecus africanus. 2.5 million years.

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Homo habilis. 1.8 million years.

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Homo erectus. 1.8 million years.

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Homo heidelbergensis. 450,000 years.

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Homo neandertalensis. 200,000 years.

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Homo erectus and Homo neandertalensis.

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Oldowan stone tool, the first hominin technology.  1.8 million years ago.

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Stone hand axes.

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Flute carved from Mammoth ivory. 35,000 years old, from Germany.

Originally posted to Shutterbugs on Sat Feb 01, 2014 at 08:25 AM PST.

Also republished by SciTech.

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