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Paleontology

Paleontology

Montana has an incredible fossil record, and for over 30 years, MOR's Paleontology Program has explored the state’s prehistory.

Recognized around the world for its collection of fossil vertebrates from the state and surrounding regions, Museum of the Rockies continues to explore and make discoveries about the ancient past and the creatures that once roamed western North America.

MOR houses hundreds of thousands of individual fossils, including those of ancient clams, fishes, amphibians, lizards, mammals, and one of the largest collections of North American dinosaurs in the world. The museum's paleontology collection includes the largest collections of Tyrannosaurus rex and Triceratops, and many of these fossils are on display in the Siebel Dinosaur Complex.

Ground-breaking research by the former Curator of Paleontology John R. (Jack) Horner, revealed insights into the growth and social behavior of dinosaurs. Today, scientific exploration continues at MOR with discoveries being made by the Paleo Team in the field every summer and continuing in the Fossil Preparation Lab and Paleontology Collections throughout the year.

Researchers from every corner of the globe come to MOR to study these remarkable and unique specimens. The Siebel Dinosaur Complex displays part of our extraordinary collection and recent discoveries made by Montana State University students, faculty, and staff.

morhistologylab.org
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Additional Information

Fossils are the preserved remains, or traces of remains, of ancient animals and plants. MOR's paleontologists make the time to help people identify fossils that they have found in and around Montana.

To have your fossil identified, please send an email to Dr. John Scannella with the following information.

  • One to three photos of the fossil attached to the email. Please do not add attachments that collectively total over 10 MB in size. Please include something in the photograph for scale, such as a ruler.
  • The location where you found the fossil. Example: On my ranch, located a few miles north of Miles City.
  • What was the soil or rock-like surrounding the fossil? Examples: It was found in the gravel by a river. It was found in a tan sandstone hill.

Due to our paleontologist's schedules, it may take up to four weeks to receive a reply.

Museum of the Rockies houses one of the largest collections of North American dinosaurs in the world as well as the fossils of mammals and other organisms from Montana and surrounding regions. MOR is a repository for federal and state fossils.

Paleontology collections access is available to qualified researchers for scholarly purposes Monday through Friday from 9 a.m to 4 p.m. Visiting researchers from outside the university are required to request an appointment in advance.

Requests for collections access should be submitted at least 30 days in advance. Requests to access histological specimens or specimens which are currently on exhibit should be submitted at least 60 days in advance. Visiting researchers will be escorted to the collections by MOR staff. Access to the paleontology collections may be limited during the summer months.

Requests for collection access or for the loan of fossil specimens should be submitted by sending an email to the Paleontology Collections Manager-Registrar.

Museum of the Rockies is the location of one of the few paleohistology laboratories in the world. Research here is focused on the study of the microscopic structure of fossil specimens, which allows for a more in-depth exploration into dinosaur growth, physiology, and behavior.

The Gabriel Lab has produced an unparalleled collection of thin-section slides of over 2,200 fossil specimens as well as numerous comparative samples of modern bone.

Fossil Preparation Lab is the area where the rock that has encased fossils for millions of years is carefully removed so that specimens can be available for research and possibly display. This process is carried out by fossil preparators, the individuals who carefully work to expose and, in some cases, repair specimens. The prep lab also produces molds and casts of fossil specimens which may be used for educational or display purposes. The lab is overseen by the Senior Preparator, MOR Lab and Field Specialist, and Paleontology Field Professional. Many students and volunteers have been trained in fossil preparation methods and techniques in the MOR lab. If you are interested in volunteering, contact the volunteer coordinator.

Some fossils are also prepared in the Bowman Dinosaur Viewing Lab located inside of the Sielel DInosaur Compex. This lab allows the public to see part of the process of preparation and also to ask preparators questions about their current projects.

Dr. Alida Bailleul, Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology

Dr. David Bowen, Montana State University

Dr. Thomas Carr, Carthage College

Dr. Karen Chin, University of Colorado Museum of Natural History

Dr. Meaghan Emery-Wetherell, Central Washington University

Dr. Mark Goodwin, University of California Museum of Paleontology

Dr. Shin Ikebe, Aso Volcano Museum

Dr. Naoki Ikegami, Mifune Dinosaur Museum

Dr. Michael Ivie, Montana State University

Dr. Yoshi Katsura, Ishikawa Museum of Natural History

Dr. Devon Orme, Montana State University

Dr. Mary Schweitzer, North Carolina State University

Dr. David Varricchio, Montana State University

Dr. Ewan Wolff, Montana State University, University of New Mexico, Las Vegas Natural History Museum

Cary Woodruff, Great Plains Dinosaur Museum and Royal Ontario Museum

Dr. Holly Woodward Ballard, Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences

Museum of the Rockies is a proud partner of the Montana Dinosaur Trail. This statewide trail runs across Montana and consists of 14 locations from the Two Medicine Dinosaur Center in Bynum to the Carter County Museum in Ekalaka. Each location offers a glimpse at the historic discoveries in the state and provides visitors with a better understanding of the giants that once inhabited our planet.

Museum of the Rockies is proud to have sister-museum relationships with the Carter County Museum, Mifune Dinosaur Museum, Aso Volcano Museum, Fukui Prefectural Dinosaur Museum, and the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture.