Beautiful Nature

She’s capricious—but she’s beautiful—and she assumes myriad forms worldwide. Mother Nature is full of riches, surprises, and variety, from the Mariana Trench to Chomolungma, from frigid polar seas to tropical coral reefs, and from feathers to fins to fur. Let's explore them here.

This story was created for the Google Expeditions project by ePublishing Partners, now available on Google Arts & Culture

Wivenhoe Park, Essex (1816) by John ConstableNational Gallery of Art, Washington DC

Not only does she offer a bounty of flora and fauna, she also offers gems and minerals that dazzle the eye and seemingly last forever. Museums around the world display these visual delights, so we can learn, admire, and be inspired by their magnificence, diversity and beauty.

The Senckenberg Nature Museum

Welcome to the Naturmuseum Senckenberg in Frankfurt, Germany. This museum features a popular collection of dinosaur fossils as well as a cast of the skeleton of the upright hominid Australopithecus afarensis, named Lucy by her discoverers.

It also holds the world’s largest and most diverse collection of preserved birds: over 2000 specimens, with some of the most interesting and unusual on display. Join this Expedition to be spellbound by the diversity of forms and the gorgeous colors of these birds.

Flirtatious Feathers

Many birds use bright colors and ornamentation for socio-sexual communication. In other words, birds flirt with their feathers. The peacock’s plumage is famous, but the hummingbird and flamingo are just as flamboyant.

Land birds such as pheasants and grouses take various postures to display their colors, hoping to seduce the most fertile females.

Tragopan: “The Horny Bird”

The tragopan, a variety of pheasant, has two brightly colored fleshy horns on its heads that the bird raises during courtship displays. The tragopan’s scientific name combines tragus (billy goat) with Pan (the wily Greek god).

Peacocks and Peahens

Male peafowl—peacocks—raise and fan their tails to reveal iridescent eyespots i blue and green. This vibrant plumage is the result of pigmentation, feather structure, and light angle.

Half Moon Island, Antarctica

If you take an Antarctic cruise, you’ll likely stop at Half Moon Island.

It may look as desolate and uninhabited as the moon, but this small (about 420 acres) island attracts plenty of summer tourists who flock to see and photograph its skuas, chinstrap penguins, Antarctic terns, kelp gulls, petrels, sheathbills, and shags.

Chinstrap Penguins

This species gets its name from the narrow band that makes its head look like a hat. Chinstrap penguins build nests from stones and lay two eggs, which both parents incubate in shifts for about 37 days. Once the fluffy gray chicks grow their feathers, they head out to sea.

Chapelle de Rosemont, Reunion Island

Reunion Island, part of France and located in the Indian Ocean east of Madagascar, is home to one of the world’s most active volcanoes, Piton de la Fournaise. A national park covers nearly half of the island that is covered by a remarkable mosaic of ecosystems and landscapes. 

Despite the name, Chapelle de Rosemont is not a church, but a spectacular mound of lava in the Enclos Fouqué (the outer crater) of the volcano.

Geocaching

These hikers might be geocaching. Participants use a GPS to find hidden objects in remote locations all over the world. A typical cache is a waterproof container holding a logbook, and a pen, where finders enter the date and their code names.

Capricious Clouds

As the sky here suggests, the weather at Chapelle de Rosemont can change very quickly from blinding sunlight with intense heat to dense fog with cold pelting rain. Straying from the paths is risky and visitors are advised to come prepared for any kind of weather.

Jewels insects and incredible birds

The oldest civic museum in Milan, Italy, is located within the grounds of Giardini Pubblici, a public park in the center of the city. The museum features six display areas that cover mineralogy, anthropology, paleontology, and zoology.

It was founded in 1838 when naturalist Giuseppe de Cristoforis donated his extensive collections to the city of Milan.

Farfalla and Moths

The Invertebrate Zoology display at the Museo Civico di Storia Naturale includes cases of farfalla, Italian for “butterflies.” Butterflies and moths make up the order Lepidoptera. 

The name—from Greek words for "scale," and "wings"—refers to the tiny scales that cover these insects’ wings and the rest of the bodies.

Beetles, Beetles, Beetles

Beetles are insects that form the order Coleoptera, meaning “sheath” and “wing,” because they have two pairs of wings, the outer pair hard and thick like a sheath or shell. Some 450,000 kinds of beetles make this the order with the most species.

Flamingo Tango

With a name that means, “flame covered,” these long-legged waders filter feed on shrimp and algae. They are famous for their flamboyant courtship dances, performed in large groups. They stretch their necks, flip their heads, and shuffle in tight lines before they break off in pairs to breed.

The Parrot and the Lyrebird

The Australian lyrebird is famous for the striking beauty of its huge wood-colored tail that fans out in display. By contrast, many of the 393 species of parrots are vividly multi-colored in greens, red, oranges, blues, and yellows.

Oceans

Located on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, the American Museum of Natural History houses 45 exhibition halls as well as the Hayden Planetarium and one of the world’s largest natural history libraries. 

With a staff of approximately 200 research scientists and an annual attendance of five million visitors, it is one of the world’s largest and most popular museums. 

The Blue Whale

This 94-feet-long, 21,000-pound fiberglass replica of a female blue whale reminds visitors of their responsibility to preserve and protect our oceans. The model is based on a whale found in 1925 off the tip of South America.

Fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus) by Leonardo GonzalezNational Museum, Czech Republic

Blue whales are the largest animals alive today —and the largest animals ever to have lived on Earth.

A Tree of Ocean Life

Here, you can see the Tree of Life display at the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life. This is an example of a cladogram, a diagram or model that shows how organisms are related.

Gems

“Born of fluid, heat, and pressure, minerals and gems dazzle us with their breathtaking colors, shapes, and diversity.” These are the words that welcome visitors to the gem and mineral displays at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. 

This part of the museum houses about 375,000 specimens from around the world. 

So Many Shapes

Every kind of crystal has an orderly, internal pattern of atoms, and each mineral has its distinctive arrangement of atoms. These patterns determine a crystal’s chemical and physical properties, including shape and color.

Smoky Quartz

Quartz is transparent as ice, but it occurs in a range of colors from pink to the deep purple of amethyst because of impurities in its structure. Smoky Quartz has wispy shades of brown. To the ancient Druids, this Stone of Power signified the potent power of Earth deities.

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