Bringing life to life

Many people think paleontology is just the study of fossils, but it’s much more than that. The department’s mission is to collect, research, and care for the fossilized remains of past life and promote the understanding of extinct and modern life on Earth.

Our planet has such a beautiful and diverse array of life and the thousands of specimens in our collections seek to bring that wonder to you. You’ll find everything from barely visible pollen spores to stunning insects to polar bears and even a Triceratops.

Highlights of our paleontology 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 BisonMammuthus,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.

Meet our staff

Alex Hastings, Philip W. Fitzpatrick Chair of Paleontology
Much of Alex's career has focused on sensational ancient reptiles, including horse-hunting crocodiles and colossal snakes. He now studies all areas of paleontology from giant dinosaurs to tiny oysters and is actively engaged in public outreach to share his enthusiasm for the ancient world.

Nicole Dzenowski, Paleontology Lab Manager

Grace DeVault, Paleontology Collections Assistant