The collections in the Zoology section at the Hessisches Landesmuseum Darmstadt originate from the Natural History Cabinet of Landgrave Louis X (1753–1830), who later became Louis I, Grand Duke of Hesse. In the 19th century, the Zoological Collections were separated from other natural history collections such as geology, mineralogy, and paleontology. Johann Jakob Kaup systematically expanded, the Zoological Collection, e.g., adding Australian marsupials, a dwarf whale skeleton, and a variety of specimens of now-extinct species. In the 20th century, far-reaching research expeditions further contributed to the expansion of the collection. Today, the Zoological Collections cover a vast range of mammal, bird, mollusk (snails, bivalves, and cephalopods) and coral species.
The central topic in the Zoological Exhibition is constant change in nature, species, and biodiversity. The current diversity of animal species on Earth is exemplarily showcased in an impressive large-scale display of more than 800 specimens. To demonstrate the change and impermanence of species diversity, specimens of extinct species are juxtaposed with specimen of existing species. Concurrently, a display of more than 100 skeletons vividly illustrates that all vertebrates share a common bauplan.
The Hessisches Landesmuseum Darmstadt displays particularly precious specimens of several recently extinct species in the exhibition area ‘change in diversity’. These include mammals such as the quagga, the Tasmanian tiger, Steller's sea cow, as well as a harlequin toad and several bird species such as the paradise parrot and a Rodrigues solitaire.
The exhibition on the evolution of humans features lifelike head reconstructions of important pre-humans, early humans, and prehistoric humans. The latest addition, Sahelanthropus, is also the oldest pre-human and is one the few discoveries outside the African Rift. Some scientists assume that Sahelanthropus should instead be seen as a relative of the gorilla or chimpanzee or the last common ancestor of humans and chimpanzees.