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Paleontology Collections

Paleontology Collections

The Science Museum of Minnesota paleontology collection is notable for its broad taxonomic and geologic extent, as well as its application to and inclusion in exhibits and educational programs. Collections range in size from pollen spores and microfossils to some of the best-preserved dinosaur fossils ever discovered. The entire range of earth history is recorded in the collection, including the local Precambrian rocks and Paleozoic invertebrate fauna, a first-class suite of Mesozoic dinosaurs, plesiosaurs, pterosaurs, and synapsids, as well as wonderful collections of early Tertiary fishes, turtles, crocodiles, mammals, and birds and Minnesota's own Pleistocene megafauna. The collection continues to grow, as Science Museum paleontologists recover fossils in their field areas.

Curators Arthur Coggeshal and Louis Powell established paleontological collections early in the history of the Science Museum of Minnesota. Bruce Erickson established the modern paleontology program at the Science Museum in 1959, and his active field and lab research programs significantly added to the collection of vertebrate fossils. More recent efforts by the SMM staff have concentrated on collecting Mesozoic and Cenozoic amniotes. Collection facilities have been completely renovated since 1999 through grants from the National Science Foundation. Most specimens are housed in secure metal cabinets on user-friendly compactors. Plans are currently underway to computerize the collections database.

Highlights of the Fossil 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.

Access to the Collection

The fossil collections at the Science Museum of Minnesota are accessible to qualified scientists who wish to use the collections for research. Please contact curatorial staff prior to your visit at .