The ten dioramas are a highlight of the zoological exhibition: Built at the beginning of the 20th century and largely spared the destruction of the Second World War, the Darmstadt dioramas occupy a unique position internationally.
The history of the Messel Pit begins 48 million years ago with a volcanic eruption that led to the formation of a so-called maar lake. Gradually, this lake silted up and oil shale formed. Towards the end of the 19th century, the first fossils were discovered by chance while mining the oil shale. Today, Germany's first UNESCO World Heritage Site is recognised worldwide for its exceptionally well-preserved fossils, which make it possible to research and reconstruct the ecosystem of the time, including the climatic conditions in and around the lake.
The exhibition focuses on the 10 million-year-old Dinotherium sands of Rhine-Hesse, which are known for their many fossilised large mammals. The Rheinschotter deposits of the northern Upper Rhine plain, on the other hand, combine deposits from the last warm and cold periods. The animal world is correspondingly diverse with woolly mammoth and woolly rhinoceros, forest elephant and forest rhinoceros, hippopotamus and water buffalo, bison and giant deer. Peale's Mastodon, the skeleton of a Mammut americanum, sits enthroned in the entrance area.
The permanent zoological exhibition displays rare specimens of extinct animal species, such as the quagga, the solitaire and the Steller's sea cow. Visitors can follow the change in species, biodiversity and the construction plan of the animals through impressive installations, including a 16 metre long showcase on biodiversity and a skeleton herd.