Fossil Invertebrates

The American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) contains one of the largest invertebrate fossil collections in the world. 
Black-and-white photo of a bearded man in spectacles.
James Hall
AMNH Library Special Collections

The collection size is over 5.0 million specimen lots. It was established in 1875 with the purchase of the James Hall Collection.

James Hall’s assistant Robert P. Whitfield joined the museum in 1877 as a curator to care for the Hall collection, and since then the collection has grown steadily through donations and expeditionary fieldwork by AMNH curators and their students.

Robert P. Whitfield

The museum recently acquired a donation of 540,000 specimens, most of which are Paleozoic fossil invertebrates collected by Royal Mapes and his students. This adds significantly to the research collection. The collections in general serve a wide user base, including students and researchers, as well as providing material to K-12 students and the general public via exhibition and educational activity.

Important contributions were made to the collections from AMNH collectors, including Harold Vokes (Cretaceous and Tertiary mollusks), Barnum Brown (Cretaceous mollusks), Otto Haas (Mesozoic ammonites), Norman Newell (Paleozoic bivalves from West Texas), Roger Batten (Paleozoic gastropods) and Niles Eldredge (Paleozoic trilobites).  

Dr. Neil Landman is adding significantly to the Mesozoic cephalopod collection by collecting extensively from within the Western Interior, Missouri, Mississippi, New Jersey, and Maryland. His current interests include the Late Cretaceous cephalopod fauna in the United States Western Interior and the Cretaceous/Paleogene boundary on the Gulf and Atlantic Coastal Plains.  

Dr. Melanie Hopkins is adding significantly to the Paleozoic marine invertebrate collections by collecting in the western U.S., New York State, Quebec, and Spitsbergen, focusing primarily on Cambrian to Silurian trilobite faunas.

Acquisitions within the past decade include:

  • the Royal Mapes collection of Paleozoic fossil invertebrates.
  • the Joyce Grier collection of Cretaceous Cephalopoda.
  • the Martin Shugar and Andy Secher collection of trilobites (on display in the Grand Gallery).
  • the Mesolimulus walchi trackway from the Jurassic, Solenhofen Limestone of Bavaria (on display in the Hall of Ocean Life).
  • a fossil Placenticeras meeki from the Upper Cretaceous of Alberta (on display in the Grand Gallery).
  • a large collection of Pliocene-Pleistocene Mollusca (Shugar-Smith collection) from South Florida.
  • a fossil Phragmoteuthis from the Posidonienscheifer Formation of Germany.
  • several fossil Proscorpius osborni from the Upper Silurian of New York.

AMNH Field Associates Martin Shugar and Andy Secher have put together a website on trilobites. To visit the site, click here

For details about the history of the department, visit
Landman, N. and Winston, J. 1999.
For Study of Invertebrates at the American Museum of Natural History, Novitates # 3277, p.5-11

Fossil Invertebrates Contacts

Dr. Melanie J. Hopkins
[email protected]

Collection Management
Bushra Hussaini
[email protected]