The exhibit on the Evolution of birds is located on the ground floor in continuity with that of Dinosaurs, as suggested by their evolutionary history: birds, in fact, are that particular group of dinosaurs which survived the great extinction at the end of the Mesozoic Era. Although it may sound strange, all the characteristics we usually associate to birds, such as feathers and down, wings and flight, nest and eggs, were already present in some dinosaur groups. Actually we observe these features in the birds we know just because they inherited them from their dinosaur ancestors, moreover this group probably survived the extinction just because these advantageous innovations.
In the first of the two sectors of the exhibition, 19 life-size models invite visitors in the ancient Mesozoic, showing them, on the one hand, those not-bird dinosaurs which had already evolved fundamental innovations as hollow bones, furcula (a bone formed by the fusion of the clavicles whose function in modern birds is to strengthen the chest during flight), feathers, down, light skull, care of the nest, wings and flight and, on the other hand, the great diversity of the properly-called birds during the Mesozoic Era.
However, it is in our geological Era, the Cenozoic that the diversity of birds explodes in 11,000 different combinations of beaks, legs, wings and colors and this spectacular panorama is presented in the second sector of the exhibition: the one dedicated to the biodiversity of living birds. Here are almost 400 naturalized specimens belonging to almost all the groups known today. The taxidermied specimens, determined by expert ornithologists and carefully restored, partly belong to the historical collection of the Museum, gathered by Paolo Savi and Sebastiano Richiardi in the nineteenth century, and partly to the recently acquired Barbero collection.