Invertebrate Paleontology

The Collection

The 100-year-old invertebrate paleontology collection housed at Carnegie Museum of Natural History currently numbers at approximately 800,000 specimens. From these numbers there are more than 12,000 primary type and figured specimens published in 400 scientific papers. The section uses Paradox 4.5 database to computerize the collection and there are four cross-referenced files: specimen (CM), stratigraphic locality (SL), bibliography, and accessions ( More than 60% of the total collection has been catalogued (60,000 catalogue numbers), and nearly 98% of the total stratigraphic locality (6,300 SL) numbers have been assigned to all the documented accessioned specimens from our 1,300 accessions.

Holotypes from the collection are available in the Collections Online website.

The earliest collections were acquired during the original startup of the museum, and were purchased from Baron de Bayet by Andrew Carnegie in 1903. This collection of more than 100,000 specimens was originally made from classic Phanerozoic (Paleozoic, Mesozoic, Cenozoic) localities of western Europe: UK, Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, France, Italy, Switzerland, Czech Republic, and Sweden during the late 19th century. One of the jewels of this collection is the extensive Solenhofen Limestone component.

Subsequent important collections were made by the curators. During his short tenure as curator, Percy E. Raymond (1904–1910) made extensive collections of Ordovician trilobites, especially of the eastern United States. Innokenty Pavlovich Tolmachoff (1922–1945) concentrated on invertebrate fossils of the United States midcontinent. Eugene R. Eller (1945–1970) accumulated one of the largest collections of scolecodonts in North America. John L. Carter (1972–1999) made extensive collections of Lower Carboniferous brachiopods of the United States midcontinent.

Other significant collection donations include the 110,000-specimen Mississippian invertebrate collection from Iowa by Arthur Gerk, and nearly 75,000 Appalachian invertebrates contributed by David K. Brezinski, Harold B. Rollins, John H. Anderson, and Alan Saltsman. Another noteworthy collection of some 10,000 invertebrates was acquired from Claude Germain in 1987.

The section's research associates have been very important in adding to our collections, especially over the last decade. These specimens include early and late Paleozoic trilobites, Phanerozoic decapod crustaceans, Pennsylvanian ophiuroids, Eocene mollusks, late Devonian/Carboniferous brachiopods, and Carboniferous gastropods.

Next: Collection Strengths