The Department of Paleobiology is home to over 40 million specimens, representing fossil invertebrates, vertebrates, and plants from all over the world. Currently, over 450,000 specimen records are available through this online catalog.
Keyword searches on summary fields can be run from the Keywords Search tab. Searches can be run against specific fields from the Search by Field tab (recommended for best results). If you don't know what to search for, try one of the three sample searches in the Quick Browse list below.
The online catalog does not include all of the specimens housed in the department. All type collections are available; however, some biologic collections have not been inventoried and are not available yet. There are currently only a small number of specimens with images associated with them, although we are continuously adding specimen records and images to the database. If you spot an error in our data, please let us know.
See the Help tab to learn more about searching and then exploring your returned results (sorting, exporting, etc.).
||Selected Dinosaur Specimens
||3383668 3440889 3449148 3449152 3451304 3451264 3451233 3448836 3448837 3448828 3440729 3440896
||Examples of Excellent Specimen Preservation
||3021058 3021362 3583034 3440287 3416659 3422513 3396209 3584271 3577250 3447910 3450096
||Selected Burgess Shale Specimens
||3113033 3113314 3113863 3239811 3113273 3113393 3110924 3111431 3113717 3113711 3113987 3111719
Enter your keywords separated by spaces and click Search. Records that match your search terms will be returned.
- Using parentheses to clarify the logic, you can create complex queries with OR and NOT (here capital letters are required, otherwise they will be treated as keyword terms).
- You can also use double-quotes to specify terms that should be treated as one.
- Lastly, you can include the terms image(s) or type(s) to find records that have images or that are type specimens.
Note that searching for common (vernacular) names may not yield the expected results. Associating common names with specimen records is a work in progress.
Keyword search example: aves (haiti OR "united states") images
Use the By Field search to find specimen data that match values in specific database fields. Enter a value or choose one from the dropdown lists.
- Click the Search button to initiate a search. Clear resets all fields.
- Some lists are linked, so for example, choosing a Country narrows the choices for Province/State/Territory, and District/County. Dropdown choices also narrow as you type, for example, typing diplod in the Family field might narrow the choice to Diplodocidae.
- Note that the Province/State dropdown is populated only after you have chosen a Country. You can type a Province/State without selecting a Country.
- Check Only Records with Images if you want to restrict the search to records with multimedia content.
- You will receive a warning when you enter invalid information in the text fields. For example, Catalog Numbers are composed strictly of letters and numbers; other characters will raise a warning.
The results of your searches can be displayed in Grid (a sortable, customizable table)
or Gallery View (best for reviewing images). Use the Switch button to cycle between these views.
- You can choose whether to display 5, 10, 20, 50, or 100 records at a time.
In Grid View:
- You can choose the columns to display from any column's dropdown menu (mouse into a column header and click the dropdown icon). Under Columns, click the name to display or hide the field (you do not need to click the checkbox specifically).
- You can drag a column header to change its order of appearance in the grid.
- You can also drag the edge of a column to make it wider or narrower.
- Click in the expansion () column to view the full record.
In Gallery View:
- Click the image to view the full record.
See Exporting Results for information on downloading results to, for example, Excel or Google Earth.
Open the full collection record by clicking the expansion button () in Grid View,
or anywhere within the image frame in Gallery View. Inverse expansion buttons () indicate records with multimedia (typically, images).
- In the Record window, metadata for the multimedia content is available when you mouseover the thumbnail.
- Clicking the thumbnail opens the content in your browser or other appropriate application.
- Record windows may be resized or moved within the browser window.
- You may have up to ten Record windows open at any one time.
Sort results in Grid View by clicking the column header (or by choosing Sort from the column's dropdown menu).
- Sort on multiple columns by consecutively sorting columns in reverse order. For example, to view results sorted by Country and Province/State, first sort by Province/State and then sort again by Country.
- For any column you can choose to sort in Ascending or Descending order.
Export all or selected results by clicking the Export Results as CSV button in the bottom toolbar in Grid,
or Gallery View.
- Select individual records for Export by checking the export selection box (along the left edge of the Grid View grid).
- Clear all selections with the Clear Selections button in the bottom toolbar.
- Results are exported as comma-separated-values, one record per line, which can be saved to disk or opened directly with applications such as Microsoft Excel.
You can also export all or selected results to a KML file for viewing with Google Earth or other KML viewers, by clicking the Export as KML button. This button is grayed when all or selected results lack latitude/longitude values.
To create a link to specific records at NMNH provide the appropriate unit and querystring to:
where UNIT is:
- anth, birds, botany, ento, fishes, herps, iz, mammals, ms, or paleo
and QUERYSTRING is (use a plus-sign to separate words):
- One or more CATALOG NUMBERS, e.g.
- One or more BARCODES, e.g.
- The NAME of a TYPE specimen, e.g.:
- The NAME of a specimen or object, e.g.:
- A By Field query supplying the NAME (qn) and/or FAMILY (fm) and/or TYPE STATUS (qt) of a specimen, and/or its COLLECTOR (co), the COLLECTION (cn) it is part of, the LIFE STAGE (ls), records with IMAGES ONLY (io), e.g.:
(Holotypes whose name includes Torre and Bartsch collected by Webb and part of the Henderson Collection)
- To open the Collections Search to a specific search tab, e.g.
Tabs are numbered left to right, beginning with zero.
- iz/?ti=1 (Invertebrate Zoology Keywords Search)
- mammals/?ti=3 (Mammals Whale Collection Search)
There are ways to speed up your queries (or slow them down!) and to find specific information.
- The more specific you make your queries the faster they will execute. Using more, rather than fewer, terms will very likely speed up your search.
- These following special characters modify the interpretation of search terms (use with as many other terms as possible to avoid slowing your search):
- * matches any number of characters, e.g. *pseudo*
- ? matches a single character, e.g. young?lus frank?
- ! negates the presence of a term, e.g. !new
- ~ matches all terms with the given stem, e.g. ~spear for spear, spears, spearing, etc.
- = match is case-sensitive, e.g. =Paris
- Query results are typically limited to 5000 records. Avoid general queries, when you can, that are likely to bring back very large numbers of records, e.g. searching for mollusca.
- Long running queries are automatically terminated, with no results returned.
Please use the Feedback page to report back any problems you find with the data, or with using these search pages.