Just inside the Lora Robins Gallery of Design from Nature, two red-eared slider turtles are swimming in a tank. Approach and they’ll dart to the surface, waiting for a nibble of food.

Tomato and Basil were caught along the shore of Westhampton Lake when they were hatchlings. They’re an invasive species and can’t be returned to the wild. Eventually, they’ll find a home in the University’s biology department. But for now they reside in the museum, surrounded by the fossils of their ancestors.

Turtles in Time: From Fossils to the Present tells the 200-million-year-old story of turtle evolution. As visitors wander, taking in the 150-million-year-old Glytops from the Jurassic era or a shell and egg clutch from South Dakota, they might begin to understand how this shy species endured and adapted, yet in many ways remains the same.

The exhibition evolved from a long-time relationship with a local fossil collector. Dave Hutchison is a member of the Richmond Gem and Mineral Society, which frequently visits University Museums. Hutchison helped identify fossil specimens in the museum’s collection. While talking to Matthew Houle one day, Hutchison mentioned his own collection.

“I didn’t realize how extensive it was until I went out to visit his property,” Houle says. “We got the idea of doing a general fossil tour, highlighting some of the interesting ecosystems along the way.”

Hutchison began collecting the fossils in the late-1960s when he took an earth history course at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Today, his collection ranges from fossil mammals and reptiles from the Oligocene Epoch, to extensive plants, and early Cretaceous fossil fish, insects, and turtles from Brazil. The exhibition showcases about 40 percent of his collection.

“I think that fossils are works of natural art,” Hutchison says. “Turtles can be appreciated in this light more so than other animals in that they radically changed their structure very early, over 200 million years ago, and are going strong today.”