SHSND Home > Exhibits > Adaptation Gallery: Geologic Time

Sneak Peek:

Archelon (Ruler Turtle)

Adaption Gallery: Geologic Time
Archelon ("ruler turtle”) was a sea turtle that lived during the Cretaceous period, 80 million years ago, and grew as long as 15 feet. This skeleton cast will be part of the Underwater World display, and will be joined by other giant sea creatures including Xiaphactinus, a giant squid, and a mosasaur.

Adaptation Gallery: Geologic Time

blue triangle Adaptation Gallery: Geologic Time


Geologic events on Earth transformed the environment many times. Plants and animals were forced to adapt or did not survive the changing climate and landscape. From the monstrous sea creatures living in primordial oceans to the rise and extinction of dinosaurs, from tropical swamplands with crocodiles and palm trees to the appearance of mammals at the end of the ice age, this is the fascinating story of geology and life in North Dakota.


Underwater World
Become immersed in the underwater world of 80 million years ago, when North Dakota was covered by oceans. Discover the prehistoric plants and animals that lived in this underwater terrain. Lighting from above will simulate sun on the water’s surface as you wander along the sea floor.

When Dinosaurs Ruled
Step back to the time when dinosaurs ruled. See impressive life-sized casts of a Tyrannosaurus rex and a Triceratops engaged in battle. View fossils of plants and animals who lived in the lush environment of woodlands, swamps, and ponds.

When Dinosaurs Ruled Exhibit

Extinction, Climate Change, and Tropical Swamplands
Learn how the Earth’s climate changed after dinosaurs became extinct, creating a welcoming environment for plants and animals to recover. Mammals grew in size, diversified, and evolved, signaling the end of the age of reptiles and ushering in the age of mammals – including (millions and millions of years later) humans. Discover the species that flourished in North Dakota’s forested swamplands.

Extinction and Climate Change Exhibit

Mammals on the Savanna
About 30 million years ago, a cooler and drier climate transformed North Dakota’s swampy, subtropical forests into low scrublands and grasslands similar to savanna habitats found in Africa today. The cooler temperatures and open scrublands and grasslands were perfect habitats for large groups of grazing mammals, while small woodlands around lakes and rivers supported smaller animals like rodents.

Learn about these ancient mammals. Many were members of groups that still exist today, including ancestral dogs, camels, deer, and mice.

Mammals on the Savanna Exhibit

The Great Ice Age
The last great ice age in North America began some 2.6 million years ago and ended about 12,000 years ago. As glaciers advanced and retreated, they dramatically transformed the North Dakota landscape and forced plants and animals to adapt. The most impressive of these now-extinct animals include mammoths, mastodon, ground sloth, and giant bison. See what the glaciers left behind, from plant and animal fossils to large boulders.

The Great Ice Age Exhibit

612 East Boulevard Ave.
Bismarck, North Dakota 58505
Get Directions

State Museum and Store: 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. M-F; Sat. & Sun. 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
We are closed New Year's Day, Easter, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day.
We will also be closed on Christmas Eve this year.
State Archives: 8 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. M-F, except state holidays; 2nd Sat. of each month, 10 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.
State Historical Society offices: 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. M-F, except state holidays.

Contact Us:
phone: 701.328.2666