The University of Iowa Paleontology Repository

Overview of the Collection

    The collections of the University of Iowa (UI) Paleontology Repository comprise over a million specimens, including >25,000 type and referred specimens, cited in >900 publications, of which >7,000 are primary types. They consist of invertebrate, vertebrate, and plant fossils of all geological ages, although more than 90% are Paleozoic marine invertebrates. The collections represent the fifth largest university collection in North America (Allmon and White 2000) and the invertebrate section ranked ninth in North America in overall significance and usefulness (CONARIP 1977).

The Paleontology Repository is the focal point for research and educational activities within the Paleontology Program, and an important source of outreach to the scientific community and the general public. The Paleontology Program is unique in its emphasis on field-based, specimen-oriented research combined with modern quantitative and analytical methods. From 1988-2006 the Paleontology Repository served as the editorial office of the Journal of Paleontology, the most widely distributed paleontological journal in the world and one of two primary journals published by the Paleontological Society. It currently serves as the editorial home of the revised trilobite volumes of the Treatise on Invertebrate Paleontology.

Collection strengths

Cephalopods- With >60,000 cataloged specimens (4,321 types), this is one of the most comprehensive collections of Paleozoic ammonoids ever assembled. Geographic breadth includes Indonesia, Middle Asia, the U.S., Europe, and North America. The collection provides the basis for the cephalopod volumes of the Treatise on Invertebrate Paleontology (Glenister & Furnish 1964, & in prep) and for the definition of Permian boundaries by Subcommissions & Working groups of the International Commission on Stratigraphy (Intern. Union of Geological Sciences) (Glenister et al. 1992). The collection has been cited in over 270 publications e.g. Miller & Furnish 1940; Glenister 1958; Glenister & Furnish 1961, Davis 1972; Spinosa et al. 1975; Manger & Saunders 1980; Frest et al. 1981; Spinosa & Glenister 2000; Glenister et al. 2004; Titus 2000; Work et al. 2000; Work & Boardman 2003; Work & Manger 2002; Work & Mapes 2002; Work & Mason 2003, 2004).

Echinoderms- The Midwest Echinoderm Collection consists of more than 52,000 specimens (3,346 types), from the Carboniferous of Kansas, Illinois, and Missouri and the Paleozoic of Iowa described in >240 publications (e.g., Strimple 1962, 1975; Strimple & Moore 1969, 1971, 1973; Warn & Strimple 1977; Frest & Strimple 1977; Frest et al. 1979; Brower & Strimple 1983; Lewis & Strimple 1990; Brower 1990, 1992a,b, 1994) including the Treatise on Invertebrate Paleontology (Strimple 1978). Currently 219 catalogue numbers are assigned for new types awaiting publication or deposit. Older important collections were donated by Calvin (assembled 1879-1911), Thomas (1922), Slocum & Foerste (1924), Laudon (1933), Laudon & Beane (1937), and Springer (bequeathed a large collection of non-types collected 1860-1925). Four large collections have been added since 2002 (Crossman 2002, 1,300 lots; Priest 2002, 500 lots; C. Strimple 2003 ~1,000 lots; Levorson, 2009, ~2,000 lots). Material previously donated by these collectors has yielded 17 holotypes (Brower 1992a, b, 1994, 1995, 1997, 1999, 2001, Brower & Strimple 1983, Frest & Strimple 1982, Kolata 1986, Kolata et al. 1977, Strimple 1976). The Crossman, Levorson, and Gerk collections are superbly documented with detailed stratigraphic logs and locality data. Excel spreadsheet inventories are available here for:

Conodonts- The conodonts include over two million specimens (5,419 types) collected by W.M. Furnish and G. Klapper with NSF support in the Ordovician through Pennsylvanian of North America, Europe (France), and Australia from 1938-1998 (e.g., Ethington 1959; Ethington & Furnish 1959, 1962; Klapper 1966, 1971, 1989, 1990, 1997a, b; Klapper & Murphy 1975; Klapper & Johnson 1980; Klapper & Lane 1989; Klapper & Foster 1993; Klapper et al. 1995; Becker et al. 1989; Metzger 1989; Day, 1990; Over 1992; Ritter & Baesmann 1991). The collection provides the basis for the „Catalog of Conodonts‟ (Klapper et al. 1977; Klapper et al. 1991), the conodont volume of the Treatise on Invertebrate Paleontology (Klapper 1981), and the definition of Devonian boundaries by Subcommissions & Working groups of the International Commission on Stratigraphy (Klapper et al. 1994; Chernykh & Ritter 1997). In 1998, BP AMOCO transferred its entire conodont collection of 20,000 slides from 1339 Paleozoic localities in the U.S., Europe, Russia, the Middle East, and Central and South America, making the UI collection one of the largest held by a university. The collection, along with digitized hard copy data will be available on-line from March 2010.

Fusulinids- The fusulinid collection is one of the largest single collections of its kind, and the UI was designated by the Paleontological Society as one of four approved U.S. repositories for fusulinid types. It includes: (a) the M.L Thompson collection of fusulinids, including >15,000 glass slides, and > 3,500 type and referred specimens (Thompson 1948, 1954; Groves 1984, 1986, 1987, 1988; Douglass & Nestell 1984; Brenckle and Groves 1986; Groves & Boardman, 1999; Groves & Wahlman 1997), and (b) the Bissell collection of 7500 glass slides (specimens cited in theses from Brigham Young Univ. (Marshall 1969; Robinson Jr. 1961; Wright 1961; Slade 1961; Hodgkinson 1961).

Corals- The Neogene scleractinian coral collection consists of ~12,000 specimens (641 types) collected over the past 20 years by Prof. A.F. Budd as part of NSF funded research (most recently EAR-9219138, EAR97-25273, EAR-0445789) in the Caribbean (Costa Rica, Jamaica, Curaçao, Dominican Republic, Bahamas) and Europe (France, Austria, Bulgaria). The material is described in four monographs (Foster 1986, 1987; Budd 1991, Budd & Johnson 1999a) and two edited volumes (Jackson et al. 1996a; Nehm & Budd 2008), and also serves as the basis for >35 articles since 1994 (e.g., Budd 2000; Budd et al. 1994, 1995, 1996a-b, 1998, 1999; Budd & Johnson 1996, 1997, 1999b, 2001; Budd & Klaus 2001; Budd & Manfrino 2001; Budd & McNeill 1998; Budd & Pandolfi 2004; Budd & Smith 2005; Budd & Stolarski 2009; Budd & Wallace 2008; Collins et al. 1996; Denniston et al. 2008; Fukami et al. 2004a-b, 2008; Getty et al. 2001; Holcomb et al. 2004; Jackson et al. 1996b; Johnson et al. 1995, 2008; Johnson & Budd, 1996; Klaus & Budd 2003; Klaus et al. 2007; McNeill et al. 1997, 1999, 2000). Also included are >2,000 specimens of Recent agariciids and faviids collected in Panama and Belize as part of Ph.D. dissertations by Stemann (1991) and Johnson (1991).

The Paleozoic coral collection consists of >2,000 specimens collected by Calvin (1879-1911), Belanski (1920s) and Stainbrook (1940-1950), 509 which are types (Calvin 1893; Easton 1944; Ladd 1929; Thomas 1917; Stainbrook 1940, 1946; Sorauf 1974, 1998; Edwards 1988; Webb 1993). The collection was assessed and reorganized under NSF grant DBI-0096768 and curated, catalogued, and made available on-line under NSF grant DBI-0544235.

trilobite collections at the University of Iowa Paleontology Repository Trilobites - The trilobite collections, totaling ~10,000 specimens, are derived mostly from Prof. Jonathan Adrain's research program and include ~2,000 type specimens from a series of systematic papers and monographs funded by NSF grants EAR 9973065, EAR 0308685, and DEB 0716065. Material is from the Cambrian and Ordovician of Nevada, Utah, and Idaho, and serves as the foundation for global revisions of major trilobite groups, as well as documenting a plethora of newly discovered taxa (Adrain & Westrop, 2004, 2006a, 2006b, 2006c, 2007a, 2007b, in press; Adrain et al., 2008, in press - a, in press - b; McAdams & Adrain, in press - a, in press - b; Westrop & Adrain, in press), and establishing a new biostratigraphic zonation for the Lower Ordovician of North American (Adrain et al., in press - a). Iowa is also the editorial home for the revision of the trilobite volumes of the Treatise on Invertebrate Paleontology (Adrain, 2008). The collections have also provided much of the primary data for studies addressing broader paleobiological questions involving diversity through time (Adrain & Westrop 2000; Westrop & Adrain 2001), habitat occupancy (Westrop & Adrain 1998; Adrain et al. 2000), and mass extinctions.

Brachiopods- The brachiopods consist of >10,000 specimens and 2,295 types studied by Wang (1949), Stainbrook (1945), and Belanski (1928a,b,c). The non-type brachiopod collection is mostly uncatalogued, but has been sorted and organized. Recent studies (Day 1989; Day & Copper 1998; Rogers & Pitrat 1987; Lescinsky 1995, 1997; Ma & Day, 2007) are based on the Belanski and Stainbrook material and Day has added new specimens from Iowa, New Mexico and Canada.

Large Mammals- The large mammal collection contains ~500 Pleistocene-age specimens described by Calvin (1909), Hay (1914), and Clement (1932, UI unpubl. thesis), and ~1,000 Holocene-age specimens. Bison bones from local peat bogs and archaeological sites comprise the bulk of the Holocene material (Whittaker 1998). Since 2001 the Paleontology Repository has collaborated with the UI Museum of Natural History and Emeritus Professor Semken on the Tarkio Valley Giant Ground Sloth Project. Material from four sloths (Megalonyx jeffersoni and Paramylodon harlani) have been acquired to date.

Micromammals- This collection contains more than 60,000 specimens from >50 paleontological and archaeological sites in Iowa and the Midwest, making it amongst the largest in the world (Semken 1974, 1980, 1984; Anderson & Semken 1980; Shutler et al. 1980; Falk & Semken 1990; Folk & Semken, 1991; Semken & Falk 1991; Semken & Graham 1996; Stafford & Semken, 1990). The material was collected primarily by graduate students and has served as the basis for >20 theses and dissertations (e.g., Croft & Semken 1994; Foley 1984; Jenkins & Semken 1972; Rhodes 1984; Davis 1987; Jans 1993, Benton 1999). The faunas from all Quaternary sites are included in FAUNMAP, a comprehensive database documenting the Late Quaternary distribution of mammalian species in the U.S. (FAUNMAP 1996; Semken 1994). Part of the collection was made available on line under NSF grant DBI-0544235.
Supplemental data for Semken, JR., H. A., Graham, R. W., Stafford, Jr., T. W. AMS 14C analysis of Late Pleistocene non-analog faunal components from 21 cave deposits in southeastern North America. Submitted to Quaternary International: The following sites (Supplemental Data File 2), which supplied specimens for AMS 14C analysis support a paper submitted by Semken, Graham and Stafford to Quaternary International, are described to provide more comprehensive information on the sites from which the AMS-dated specimens selected for analysis. The localities are organized into three geographic regions (1) the Appalachians, (2) the Allegheny plateau west of the Appalachians and (3) the Ozark Plateau of the central United States.  Although Stafford et al., (1999) review the dates on the lower levels of Peccary Cave and the Creek Bend Cave samples, 70 of the 121 dates (Tables 1, 2, 3 and 4) from the project are reported here for the first time.  All dates, chemical processes, and stratigraphic associations, etc., are tabulated in Supplemental Data File 1.

Paleobotany- The paleobotany collection encompasses an incredible diversity of specimens from 2 billion year old microscopic algae, to seeds and pollen from Ice Age flowering plants. Particularly important collections are (a) Cretaceous cycadeoids collected by Macbride in 1894, including two holotype specimens; (b) the F. O. Thompson collection of >1,000 Mazon Creek nodules; (c) a significant collection of coal balls from now inaccessible sites in Iowa (Urbandale, Shuler, What Cheer); (d) Iowa Carboniferous compression floras; and (e) ~500 Dakota Sandstone specimens collected by Sternberg. The collections form the basis of several publications (Brotzman & Schabilion 1971-2; Mapes & Schabilion 1979a.b; Reihman & Schabilion, 1976,a,b, 1978, 1985; Schabilion 1975, Schabilion & Brotzman 1979; Schabilion & Reihman 1985, Ward, 1899, Wieland, 1906, 1916). The pollen and plant macrofossils from >25 Quaternary sites in Iowa , other Midwestern, and Rocky Mountain sites have been used for paleoecological interpretations (e.g., Van Zant 1979; Van Zant & Hallberg 1976; Baker 1976, 1983, 2000; Baker et al. 1980, 1989, 1990, 1992, 1993a,b, 1995, 1996, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002,,2005, 2006, 2009; Baker & Van Zant 1980; Bettis et al. 1990; Chumbley et al. 1990; Garry et al. 1990; Rogers et al., 1992; Baker & Drake 1994; Zhu & Baker 1995; Denniston et al., 1999a-c). The collection is important because it preserves material from an interval of time (the last 1 million years) that has not been previously well documented in North America. Also present are Paleozoic and Mesozoic palynologic samples (~1,500 slides) from Iowa coals (Ravn 1979, 1983; Ravn & Witzke 1995). The Paleontology Repository houses two important reference collections used in Quaternary studies: (1) ~1,250 slides of modern pollen from mainly midwestern and Rocky Mountain taxa; (2) ~3,000 specimen boxes of seeds, fruits, and other plant parts from taxa from the same regions. Both collections are used in identifying fossil specimens; the latter collection is thought to be the largest in the Midwest.

Stratigraphic and taxonomic collections from Iowa formations—Unique segments of the collection include: Calvin Coll. (1874-1911; Calvin 1878; White 1880); Belanski Coll. (1925-1929, Devonian; Strimple & Levorson 1969); Ladd & Kay Coll. (1920s, Ordovician); Thomas Coll. (1920-1930, Paleozoic; Walter 1923); Laudon Coll. (1930s and 1975, Mississippian); Stainbrook Coll. (1940s, Devonian); Fitzpatrick Coll. (1890s, Devonian); Orr Coll.(1950s, Ordovician); Van Tuyl Coll. (1920s, Mississippian); Levorson, Gerk, Crossman, and Gossman (1960-1990s; Ordovician, Mississippian); Walsh Coll. (2008, Silurian, Iowa) and Paleozoic fish (Eastman 1907).

Other important stratigraphic and taxonomic collections— Several collections of predominantly non-Iowan material are under-utilized because they are incompletely cataloged [e.g., Springer Collection (1920) Paleozoic echinoderms; AMOCO Production Co. Florida Bay samples (assembled from 1965-1985, Holocene invertebrates of South Florida, Bahamas Platform and Caribbean); Guest thesis material, Cretaceous-Pliocene, Mississippi] or because they are inaccessible [e.g., Strimple Collection (1930-1980) Midcontinent Paleozoic echinoderms; Nutting and University Expedition Collections (1890-1922; Calvin 1892; Caribbean Neogene and Recent); Shimek (assembled 1878-1936; Quaternary non-marine molluscs; Frest 1981, 1982; Frest & Dickson 1986)]. Several studies using Univ. Iowa specimens not covered in the above categories have been published recently (e.g., gastropods- Rohr 1992; Day 1987; arthropods- Hesselbo 1993, Feist & Petersen 1995; conulariids- Van Iten 1991, 1992a,b; Van Iten et al. 1992).

Collection Statistics (July 2009)

Summary of UI Paleontology Repository Collections, growth and usage.

Fossil Group


Growth since 2004

No. loans since 2004

No. visitors since 2004


>60,396 specimens; 4,321 types


8 (148 specs)



~52,000 specimens; 3,346 types

~2058 lots

4 (52 specs)



>2,000,344 specimens
5,419 types


8 (356 specs)


Fusilinids &

>23,398 slides
c. 3,500 types


2 (320 specs)


~10,000 specimens; 663 types ~4,000 4 (1,193 specs) 9


>2,000 specimens; ~519 types


1 (28 specs)



>10,049 specimens; 2,295 types


2 (94 specs)



>10,000 specimens; 2,535 types


5(57 specs)


Large Mammals

1,504 specimens; 520 types


3 (13 specs)



>63,446 specimens


2 (17 specs)


Palynology/ Paleobotany

~22,000 specimens, ~50 types;
>10,000 pollen slides, residues in glycerin; >4,000 Holocene comparative material


2 (369 specs)


Iowa formations

>25,378 specimens; ~1,000 types


4 (441 specs)



Value of the collection for scientific research and resource management

Degree and range of use over the past five years: In the past 5 years, approximately 91 visits to the Paleontology Repository were made by scientists and students who studied the collections, totaling 415 visitor days. A breakdown of visits per fossil group is shown in Table 1. In addition, 101 visitors (excluding school groups), brought in objects to be identified, toured the collections, completed school projects and work experience, and consulted the Collections Manager for specimens for teaching and display. Sixty-five specimen loans were made to researchers, totaling >5,643 specimens (Table 1). The collections have formed the basis of eleven MS and PhD theses by UI students since 2000. 

Research impact over past 5 years: Publications citing SUI specimens have almost doubled in the past 5 years (66 compared with 35 in the preceding 5 years) including: Acta Palaeontologica Polonica (1); Actazoologica (1); Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History (1); Bulletins of American Paleontology (2); Canadian Journal of Earth Science (2); Geological Journal (1); Geological Magazine (1); Geology (1); Journal of Foraminiferal Research (1); Journal of Mammalogy (1); Journal of Paleontology (26); Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology (1); Memoirs of the Queensland Museum (1); Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology (1); Palaeontology (1); Palaois (2); Paleobiology (1); Paleoworld (2).

Research publications citing UI Paleontology specimens since 2004 (by taxon)
*denotes UI student or recent graduate

Fossil Group
No. of Specimens Cited




Glenister et al. 2004, Schiappa 2005, Work & Mason 2004, McGowan & Smith 2007, Kroger & Mapes 2005, 2007, Landman et al. 2004, Schiappa et al. 2005, Work & Mason 2005, Work & Mapes 2009, Gottobrio & Saunders 2005, Work et al. 2007a, b



Gahn & Baumiller 2004, Brower 2006, 2007a, b, Miller et al. 2008. Frest 2005



Barrick et al. 2005, Lane et al. 2005, Metzger 2005, Witzke & Metzger 2005, Klapper 2007, Lambert et al. 2007, Villa et al. 2009

Fusilinids and forams


Groves et al. 2004, Groves et al. 2005, Groves 2005, Groves et al. 2007a,b, Brenkle 2004



Budd & Pandolfi 2004, Budd & Klaus 2008*, Beck & Budd 2008*, Budd & Stolarski 2009, Johnson & Perez 2006



Ma & Day 2000, Ma & Day 2007, Rode and Lieberman 2007



Adrain and Westrop, 2005, 2006a, b, c, 2007a, b, in press, Adrain et al., 2008, in press a, b, McAdams and Adrain, in press a*, b*, Westrop and Adrain, in press, Westrop et al., 2008*, Brezinski 2008.

Paleobotany Not cited individually Baker et al., 2005, 2006, 2009, Baker 2007
Vertebrates 307 Brochu 2004, 2006, Wallace, 2006*

Iowa Formations


Liu et al. 2006, Van Iten et al. 2005, Van Iten et al. 2006a, b

Rate of growth over past 5 years: Since 2004, >10,847 specimens have been deposited; ~3,000 by amateur collectors (excluding the Rhodes Bequest 2008, of 25 bulk samples of unprocessed sediment from a micromammal site), 5,400 by UI researchers, >600 by UI students, and >1,847 by researchers at other institutions. Of these specimens, 3,377 were assigned catalogue numbers in preparation for scientific publication. The Levorson Collection (2009, Midwest crinoids) and the Walsh Collection (2008-2009, new Iowa Silurian soft-bodied fauna which is to be the basis of a future research project) are typical of the large unorganized, un-curated collections bequeathed by late amateur fossil collectors, that are untapped resources of great research potential. The University of Missouri-Columbia conodont collection (8,500 specimens) will be transferred to the Paleontology Repository in 2011, fully curated and catalogued to our requirements under NSF grant DBI-0546549 to Missouri-Columbia.

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This page last updated March 16, 2010, tsa.