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Fossil Amphibians and Reptiles Collections

Fossil Amphibians and Reptiles

Fossil amphibians and reptiles is a medium-sized collection of some 7,000 fossils that is intensively used, with about 2,000 published specimens including 193 holotypes, 550 figured, and over 1,000 referred fossils.


Fossil amphibians and reptiles is a medium-sized collection of some 7,000 fossils that is intensively used, with about 2,000 published specimens including 193 holotypes, 550 figured, and over 1,000 referred fossils.

  • Very strong Paleozoic collection including an excellent collection from the Early Permian of the US
  • Important collection of synapsids from the Early Permian, and from the Permo/Triassic of South Africa
  • Unique Mississippian tetrapod fauna from Iowa
  • Diverse collection of North American fossil turtles particularly from the Cretaceous of Alabama and Eocene of Wyoming
  • Unique collection of Permo-Triassic from South Africa
  • Unique collection of Cretaceous & Triassic archosaurs
  • Unique collection of Mesozoic dinosaurs, crocs, & synapsids from Madagascar
  • Small but significant dinosaur collection, some particularly good exhibit/research specimens including Tyrannosaurus [SUE!], Apatosaurus, Parasaurolophus, Rapetosaurus, Brachiosaurus, Lambeosaurus, Daspletosaurus)

Here is how the specimens from the Fossil Herp Collection are distributed in time:

Systematic Coverage-Most major groups of Paleozoic amphibians and reptiles are represented in the collections, notably those from the Early Permian and Late Mississippian. Other groups with significant representation include turtles from the Tertiary, Triassic marine reptiles, Cretaceous dinosaurs and Tertiary birds.

Here is a graphic showing the percentages of the major component groups that make up Field Museum's Fossil Herp Collection:

Geographic Strengths-The collections' primary strength is North American material, especially Early Permian of Texas and Oklahoma, Late Mississippian of Iowa and Middle Triassic of Nevada (all but the red bars above represent the US portion of the collection).

Type Specimens-The collection includes 193 holotypes, 550 figured
and over 1,000 referred specimens

Early Permian-Roughly 50% of our Early Permian holdings came from the Walker Museum collection, which was transferred here from the University of Chicago in 1947.  In the years following this transfer more Permian vertebrates came into our collection from Everett Olson as he finished his studies on them.  These Early Permian collections come mostly from Texas and Oklahoma, with some important specimens from New Mexico. This part of the collection represents the research efforts over nearly 100 years of some of the best known workers in early tetrapod systematics, including A. S. Romer, Everett Olson, and their numerous students. It is relatively well studied and rich in type and figured specimens. Major additions to our Early Permian holdings within the last 20 years are primarily from Oklahoma, and due to the work of John Bolt (as a student at the University of Chicago, and later as a curator at Field Museum). Bolt's activities in the amazing Ft. Sill Locality, a fissure-fill system in southwest Oklahoma have resulted in the addition of many exquisitely preserved specimens of small tetrapods.

A large part of this Permian collection is a group which used to be called "mammal-like reptiles" and so was housed in the Fossil Herp Collection.  Modern evolutionary studies have shown this group to be outside of reptiles.  Were we to start this collection today, we would house it with the fossil mammals.  Our Curator of Fossil Mammals, Ken Angielczyk, works on this interesting group.  For more details on these fossils go to the Non-mammalian Synapsid Collection.

Fossil Turtles-About half our turtle collection comes from the Cretaceous of North America, many from Alabama and Arkansas, and others from Kansas, Colorado, South Dakota, New Mexico and Alberta are represented as well.  We also have some Cretaceous turtles from Madagascar.  The remaining turtle fossils are younger, coming from the Eocene of Wyoming and Colorado, largely due to the work of Rainer Zangerl and Bryan Patterson.  We also have a large collection of tortoises from the White River (latest Eocene to Oligocene) of South Dakota, Nebraska and Wyoming

Dinosaurs-The dinosaur collection includes mostly Cretaceous specimens (tyrannosaurids, hadrosaurs, ceratopsians) from both the United States west and Canada (the well-known mounts of Albertasaurus and Lambeosaurus). The most important Jurassic dinosaur material is a (composite) mounted specimen of Apatosaurus, currently on display in "Evolving Planet" and the holotype of Brachiosaurus, a cast of which is on display on the northwest terrace outside the museum. Recent additions of theropod material includes Cryolophosaurus, a Jurassic dinosaur recently discovered in Antarctica by Research Associate Bill Hammer. Ongoing work in Madagascar by Research Associates Dave Krause and other colleagues is yielding new material of Late Cretaceous dinosaurs, birds, crocodiles and other reptiles.  Pete Makovicky's work in the western US is increasing our understanding of the Cretaceous, particularly the dinosaur fauna from the Early Cretaceous Cedar Mountain Formation in Utah.

Marine Middle Triassic Reptiles-Olivier Rieppel's ongoing field program in the Middle Triassic marine deposits of northwestern Nevada have resulted in significant discoveries of marine Middle Triassic reptiles. Specimens collected represent the only Triassic stem-group Sauropterygia known from the New World (other than the enigmatic genus Corosaurus from Wyoming).

Mississippian Tetrapods - A remarkable assemblage of Mississipian tetrapods (primitive amphibian-like animals) was collected in the mid 1980s by crews directed by J. Bolt, all from a single locality in southwestern Iowa. This site, a collapsed sinkhole some 16 meters in diameter, was probably a near-shore pond or lagoon during the Later Mississippian. It has produced hundreds of tetrapod specimens; many are very well preserved and some are nearly complete. This locality was the first reported occurrence in midcontinental North America of Mississippian tetrapods (the continent's oldest), and is one of no more than two dozen such localities in the world.  These are among the oldest and rarest of fossils in our collection.




Charles R. Knight (1874-1953) is recognized as the preeminent artist of prehistoric animals.  Knight was commissioned to create a series of 28 murals for the Field Museum which he began in 1926 and completed in 1931.