Vertebrate Paleontology

Collections

stack_of_bonesThe fossil collection of Vertebrate Paleontology are accessible for research by qualified individuals. Please arrange your visit with Collection Manager Amy Henrici in advance. See the Section Visits page for more information.

  • Click here if you are interested in casts of previous work available for distribution.
  • Click here to go to the Vertebrate Paleontology collection online database (in a new window).

The collection of fossil vertebrates at Carnegie Museum of Natural History is the fourth largest in North America. It currently has more than 103,000 specimens from the Silurian to the Pleistocene with a worldwide geographical distribution, and is still growing at a healthy pace. This diverse collection boasts specimens representing all vertebrate classes, including 376 type specimens, such as that of Tyrannosaurus rex. This extensive record of the extinct vertebrates offers fascinating insight into the history of the earth and its biota and has inestimable scientific value.

This outstanding fossil vertebrate collection has been accumulated by more than 100 years of field work by the Vertebrate Paleontology staff and acquisition by the museum. It began in 1895 with the sponsorship of Mr. Andrew Carnegie. In the early 20th century, the Carnegie Corporation supported the museum’s numerous expeditions to the American West, building one of the best dinosaur collections in the world. More recent efforts by the Carnegie staff have concentrated on collecting mammals of the Cenozoic and tetrapods and amniotes of the Paleozoic and Mesozoic. These field expeditions and the curation of the fossil collection have been supported by the National Science Foundation, National Geographic Society, American Chemical Society, L. S. B. Leaky Foundation, and the M. Graham Netting Fund of Carnegie Museum of Natural History.

Other Highlights of the Vertebrate Fossil Collection 

  • Permian and Pennsylvanian fishes, amphibians and reptiles of the southwestern United States and the Dunkard Basin in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia
  • Bony (Osteichthyes, Acanthodii) and cartilaginous (Chondrichthyes) fishes of the Mississippian of Montana
  • Permian reptiles (ancestral plesiosaurs and others) from Madagascar
  • Jurassic dinosaurs, especially sauropods, of Utah and Wyoming, the finest in the world—a discovery that led to the creation of Dinosaur National Monument of Utah
  • Jurassic bony fishes and reptiles (pterosaurs, rhynchocephalians, and chelonians) from Bavaria and France, and Eocene teleost fishes from Monte Bolca, Italy—the best collections of these fossil vertebrates in the western hemisphere
  • Eocene mammals, reptiles, and amphibians from central Wyoming and Utah—among the best in the world
  • Late Eocene and Oligocene vertebrates, especially mammals, from the Sage Creek, Three Forks, and Kishenehn basins of western Montana
  • Miocene vertebrates from western Nebraska, a site now preserved as Agate Springs Fossil Beds National Monument
  • Miocene mammals from Montana—the best from this time and area
  • Miocene mammals from Samos, Greece—the finest surviving collection from this locality
  • Pleistocene vertebrates of the Appalachian region
  • High-altitude Rocky Mountain Pleistocene cave faunas

Paleobotany 

The collection holds about 16,000 specimens. Among the Paleozoic plants, the Pennsylvania-aged collection is particularly significant, especially the Cannelton/Mansfield, Lacoe, and Oleksyshyn collections. Tertiary holdings include collections made by invertebrate and vertebrate paleontologists from localities previously unknown to paleobotanists and the excellent and large collection of Green River flora.

Our collection from Monte Bolca, Italy, is the largest in the country and is of great value for study and exhibit. Other excellent European holdings are those from Gelinden, Belgium; and Armissan, France, both valuable research collections.

Museum Library (Section of Vertebrate Paleontology)
The Carnegie Museum of Natural History Library is dispersed across a main library unit and individual section libraries. General and multidisciplinary works are housed in the main library. The Vertebrate Paleontology Library is a satellite of the Museum Library. Please visit the Museum Library site for information on accessing titles. Titles in the Museum Library may not be loaned, and must be used onsite.