400 Million Years In and Around Water - a selection of aquatic specimens from The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery, Stoke-on-Trent

Fabulous Fossils
Underwater life from 540 million years ago.

The fossilised remains of a 420-million-year-old piece of horn coral. Like today's coral, Kodonophyllum sat unmoving on the ocean floor, feeding on particles as they drifted by.

A more recent coral, Lithostrotion is a colonial rugose coral. All rugose corals had died out by the end of the Permian about 250 million years ago and they aren't closely related to modern corals.

This brachiopod comes from the Carboniferous period and is about 330 million years old. It was found in Narrowdale near Wetton, Staffordshire.

This Carboniferous gastropod is about 330 million years old and was found in Hemmingslow Quarry in Cauldon Lowe, Staffordshire.

Marvellous Molluscs
From giant squid to pond snails, molluscs are among the most ancient and diverse of aquatic groups.

Spondylus (or 'spiny oysters') are edible, but toxic if eaten between April and September due to the poisonous algae they consume during these months.

The endangered freshwater pearl mussel has an incredibly long life-span. The oldest known individual was caught in Estonia at 134 years old, but it is thought that they may be able to live as long as 250 years.

A common and widespread species, these pond snails are used as model organisms in genetic and neurological research. They are able to self-fertilise and their eggs are commonly seen in jelly-like strands on the underside of leaves.

Intruiging Insects
The first insects appeared almost 400 million years ago, and many retain their dependence on water for feeding and breeding.

Both the larvae and adults of the great diving beetle are predatory and will even catch and eat small fish. Despite being one of Great Britain's largest beetles, the adult is still able to fly to seek out new water sources.

The banded demoiselle can be found living around many streams and rivers in southern Britain. The banding across the wings is only found in adult males.

Breath-taking Birds
The last remaining lineage of dinosaurs, many birds live in and near water, relying on aquatic organisms for food.

The black-headed gull is an inland species, usually breeding on marshes or lake islands. They are not picky eaters, and will eat fish, insects, seeds or scraps in towns.

In addition to the small fish and frogs you may have seen them poaching from your garden pond, herons have also been known to tackle bigger prey, including rabbits and grebes.

Kingfishers can be seen all year round, perching on branches above slow-moving water on the look out for fish below the surface. A third eyelid protects the eye as they dive into the water for minnow or stickleback.

The Eskimo curlew uses its long beak to probe for invertebrate food in mud and soft ground. Approximately 2 million birds were killed per year in the late 19th Century, resulting in their possible extinction.

Magical Mammals
Several families of mammals have independently evolved to live a completely aquatic life. Common seals live and feed out at sea, but usually return to land to give birth and nurse pups. Seals can dive underwater for over 30 minutes by slowing their heart rate down to just 15 beats per minute.
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The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery
Stoke-on-Trent, UK

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