Paleontology

Bringing life to life

Many people think paleontology is just the study of fossils, but it’s much more than that. The department’s mission is to collect, research, and care for the fossilized remains of past life and promote the understanding of extinct and modern life on Earth.

Our planet has such a beautiful and diverse array of life and the thousands of specimens in our collections seek to bring that wonder to you. You’ll find everything from barely visible pollen spores to stunning insects to polar bears and even a Triceratops.

For more information, email science@smm.org or call (651) 221-9435.

Highlights of our paleontology collection

  • Paleocene Wannagan Creek Biota, including thousands of fossils from more than 120 species of plants and animals. Crocodilians, champsosaurs, and turtles dominate the collection, but mammals, birds, and fishes are also well known from the Wannagan Creek Quarry.
  • Mesozoic and Cenozoic Crocodyliformes and Choristoderans, including Albertochampsa (one of the oldest known alligators), Gavialosuchus, the first known North American simeodosaur, and several species of champsosaurs.
  • Jurassic Dinosaurs from Wyoming and Montana, including exceptionally preserved specimens of Camptosaurus and some of the best Diplodocus skeletons and skulls ever found.
  • Cretaceous Dinosaurs, including Triceratops (a composite of two individuals is one of four on display in the world) from the Hell Creek Formation, and the skeleton of Rapetosaurus krausei, from the Maevarano Formation of Madagascar.
  • Lemley Collection of Oligocene Vertebrates from the White River Formation of Wyoming and South Dakota, including mammals, reptiles, and fish.
  • Invertebrate Collections include a representative array of North American invertebrates, and highlight Minnesota’s Paleozoic fauna.
  • Chondricthyan and Actinopterygians from the Eocene Green River Formation of Wyoming.
  • Minnesota’s Pleistocene Vertebrate Fauna, including Bison, Mammuthus, Mammut, Cervus, Symbos, and Casteroides.
  • Type and Figured Specimens in the museum’s paleontology collection include 139 types, and over 300 specimens figured in peer-reviewed literature.
Meet Our Staff

Bruce Erickson, Philip W. Fitzpatrick Chair of Paleontology
During the course of his 55 years as a paleontologist at the Science Museum, Bruce has “collected about a million specimens” and discovered fifteen new types of plants and ancient animal species. Bruce discovered the museum’s Triceratops in 1961 at the Hell Creek Formation in Montana.

Access to the collection

Our fossil collections are accessible to qualified scientists who wish to use them for research. Please contact curatorial staff prior to your visit at science@smm.org.