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The Division of Invertebrate Paleontology holds one of the largest collections of invertebrate fossil material in North America. The distribution of the taxa is approximately 35% Brachiopoda, 15% Mollusca, 25% Arthropoda, 10% Cnidaria, and 15% all other phyla and trace fossils. The geographic distribution of collected materials is 75% North American, 7% Asian, 4% European, and 16% all other continents and oceanic. Stratigraphically, the collection is 64% Paleozoic, 12% Mesozoic, 9% Cenozoic, and 15% Proterozoic or undetermined.

Major strengths of our collections include: the Schuchert Collection of brachiopods; all material collected by Charles Schuchert, along with the collections of Fred Braun, Darling K. Greger, W.H. Twenhofel, J.W.D. Marshall and Schuchert’s many graduate students; the June R.P. Ross Collection of Bryozoa; the Charles A. Ross Collection of Fusilinida; Ordovician and Silurian fossils of Maritime Canada (collected by C. Schuchert, C.O. Dunbar, W.H. Twenhofel and A.E. Verrill); Beecher’s Trilobite Bed; and the Fox Hills Formation of South Dakota ammonoids (collected by Karl Waage).

The Division’s holdings are divided between the Systematic Collection and the Stratigraphic Collection. The Systematic Collection comprises nearly 4,200 drawers of specimens accumulated over 200 years by many paleontologists. The Stratigraphic Collection consists of over 4,300 drawers of Paleozoic material and nearly 500 drawers of Mesozoic and Cenozoic material. The holdings of the Division of Invertebrate Paleontology represent more than 350,000 specimen lots, approximately 4 million individuals. A total of 35,000 are type specimens; about 4,500 of these are the basis of new species descriptions. Over 300,000 specimen lots are available in the online specimen index; all known type specimens are included.

The Stratigraphic Collection includes material collected and acquired by the Division’s curators, and all materials collected by Yale University students for doctoral research. Approximately 50% of the collection includes bulk rock specimens (fossils with lithological remnants), which are essential for answering many questions in paleoecology and taphonomy. Paleontological research has grown to incorporate areas beyond taxonomy and phylogeny to consider the aspects of paleobiology of organisms and their relationship with other taxa and the environment (paleoecology). Bulk samples provide data on the matrix lithology that can be analyzed with modern methods (SEM, electron microprobe, cathodoluminescence and others) to extract information on:

  • ocean and atmospheric geochemistry;
  • the relationship of host lithology to types of preservation;
  • the substrate preference of organisms, populations and communities; and
  • global climate change through time.

The Stratigraphic Collection is particularly useful in studies of paleobiogeography and diversity through time, which are emerging as important topics in paleontology.

Because the material was acquired over a period of at least 200 years, much of the collection is irreplaceable because localities have been lost, or are inaccessible due to political upheaval, or because of the great cost involved in collecting new material. From 1920 to 1940, Carl O. Dunbar, R.E. King and P.B. King collected great volumes of silicified fossil material in the Glass Mountains of west Texas, localities where currently, because of private ownership, there is very limited access. Similarly, localities in the eastern and midwestern United States have been lost to land development. The Stratigraphic Collection also contains material from Timor, Algeria, and the Salt Range in Pakistan, now subject to travel bans, and from other countries with limited access for political or geographic reasons. Many sites represented in the Peabody’s collections, such as the St. Louis, Missouri outlier, areas in the Tennessee Valley, and the Fox Hills (all sites of exceptional preservation) are now submerged behind dams.

An archive of correspondence, field notes, maps, stratigraphic sections, photographs and publications documents the collections’ acquisition, use and provenance. The Division of Invertebrate Paleontology shares a large library with the Division of Invertebrate Zoology to facilitate research at the Museum.

The Yale Peabody Museum’s collections are available to legitimate researchers for scholarly use. Loans are issued to responsible individuals at established institutions. Loans and access to the collection can be arranged through the Collections Manager.

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