Vertebrate Paleontology


stack_of_bonesThe fossil collections 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.

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 468 type specimens, such as that of Tyrannosaurus rex. This extensive record of 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 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 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. Leakey Foundation, the M. Graham Netting Fund of Carnegie Museum of Natural History, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and several other organizations.

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 from Madagascar
  • Jurassic dinosaurs, especially sauropods, of Utah and Wyoming, the finest collection in the world—the 1909 discovery of Jurassic dinosaur bones in Utah led to the creation of Dinosaur National Monument
  • 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


The collection holds about 16,000 specimens. Among the Paleozoic plants, the Pennsylvanian-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.

If you are interested in visiting the Paleobotany collection, please contact the Vertebrate Paleontology Collection Manager.