By Albert D. Kollar
When people hear the name Invertebrate Paleontology often times they are confused what it means. Invertebrates are animals without backbones such as trilobites, lobsters, clams, snails, corals, sea urchins, and brachiopods to name a few. The term paleontology refers to fossilized animals that once lived in the geologic past. The evidence of this event is preserved in earth’s sedimentary rocks. Invertebrate fossils are found in limestones, sandstones, and shales that formed in ancient oceans, lakes and rivers during times of environmental and climate change.
Close to a billion invertebrate fossil specimens are housed in the Section of Invertebrate Paleontology cabinets stored in the museum’s basement. To build a collection of 800,000 plus fossils, it takes more than a century of field collecting by section staff, exchanges with other museums from around the world, donations from our research associates and regional universities. Under special circumstances, donations are received from the general public if the fossils and the localities can be verified scientifically.
The section’s collection strengths are based on the paleontologically, stratigraphic, and geologic interest of the section’s scientists and colleagues who work on the various invertebrate groups. The section historical strengths are in the fossil groups of trilobites, brachiopods, crustaceans’ snails, cephalopods, and the eurypterid trackway. Sometimes special fossils from the collections are placed on the museum’s exhibit floor in Benedum Hall of Geology and Dinosaurs in Their Time. For instance, one of the great regional fossils is the giant eurypterid trackway on display in Benedum Hall of Geology. The fossil track was discovered by museum scientists in 1948 in Elk County, Pennsylvania. The fossil was later named Palmichnium kosinskiorum in honor of the discoverer, James Kosinski. An in-depth geology review of the fossil site was published in the Carnegie Annals in 2016 by section staff Albert Kollar and David Brezinski. Other Pittsburgh area fossils from the collection can be found in the Pennsylvanian Marine Diorama in Benedum Hall of Geology.
In future blogs, the section will be talking about the history of research, collection expeditions, fossils on display, the importance of volunteers in the sections and many more topics. Stay tuned.
Albert D. Kollar is the Collection Manager in the Section of Invertebrate Paleontology at Carnegie Museum of Natural History. Museum employees are encouraged to blog about their unique experiences and knowledge gained from working at the museum.