Osteological Collections
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The skeletal collection at Yale Peabody Museum was initially created by O.C. Marsh for use as comparative material for his paleontological studies.

For some time the skeletal collections of all modern vertebrates were united into a single Osetology Division. In recent years this formal division was dissolved, and all skeletal specimens are now maintained within the Division of Vertebrate Zoology.



Constantly growing, the herpetology skeletal collection currently contains over 2,500 amphibians and reptiles. Some specimens are fully articulated and mounted for use in education and for occasional exhibition. Most, however, are semi-articulated, used by researchers studying topics ranging from pathology to systematics.

Rana catesbeiana display mount
used for teaching by the Public Education Department and Yale University.

The Division has recently begun preparing fully disarticulated specimens, which are especially useful for archaeological research and to those studying fossil amphibians and reptiles. Field studies in these 2 areas often result in small skeletal fragments.



The Division’s ichthyology skeletal collection contains several hundred fish skeletons. Most are from North America, with an emphasis on local New England species. The collection continues to grow with the recent addition of fully disarticulated specimens, which could be of particular use to ethnozoologists and paleontologists.

This skull of a Lophiid fish clearly shows
the large teeth and wide mouth
of this predatory bottom-dwelling species.



The skeletal collection of mammals is small (4,776 specimens, over 770 species), but historically important, and contains a disproportionate number of large animals. Included are one of only 7 complete skeletons of the now extinct quagga, several tapirs, elephants, giraffes, and African antelopes; and a large series of buffalo skulls from the 1870s.


Also of interest is the Leon F. Whitney Collection of champion show dogs, and exotic circus animals donated to the Museum by P.T. Barnum and his successors.



The skeleton collection in ornithology contains just over 9,000 bird specimens representing about 1,900 species. All but a handful of specimens are post-1950, and more than 50% are post-1965. There is good geographic representation, with collections from Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Dominican Republic, Kenya, New Guinea, New Zealand and Thailand. In the United States, collections are from Arizona, California, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York.

Sarcoramphus papa, YPM 102273.

The disarticulated skeleton collection is a useful comparative resource for species-level determination. It was recently used in a study of bird feeding ecology. Many birds, including owls and caracara, swallow prey essentially whole and produce a pellet containing the undigestable parts, such as skeletal fragments. (See, for example, Postilla 220, “Diet of a Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus) on a Small Coastal Connecticut Island,” by Jon A. Moore, C. Lewis and M. R. Anderson,1999.)

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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