About Vertebrate Paleontology | Natural History Museum of Los Angeles

The Vertebrate Paleontology Department lab, where staff and volunteers prepare specimens for research and display.
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Contact Vertebrate Paleontology

Dr. Samuel A. McLeod
Collections Manager
Phone: (213)763-3325
Email: smcleod@nhm.org

Age of Mammals Media

Go in depth with our researchers and the unique specimens from the 
Age of Mammals exhibit.
Learn More


Vertebrate Paleontology Department



Welcome to the Natural History Museum’s Vertebrate Paleontology Department. Vertebrate Paleontology is the study of ancient animals that have a vertebral column including fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals. Vertebrate paleontologists are best known for their work with fossils. Our department has grown from housing the fossils recovered from the asphalt seeps of Rancho La Brea during the early 20th century to include a wide diversity of specimens amassed over the years by means of both active excavations and generous donations. Our collection is the fifth largest in the nation and a research standard for universities and colleges in the Southern California region. Learn More (LINK TO HISTORY PAGE)



The Vertebrate Paleontology Department is responsible for many of the Natural History Museum’s exhibits that feature fossils and ancient animal remains. Our department provides the backbone of the Age of Mammals exhibit, currently on display. However, our collection doesn’t end there. Upstairs, our cabinets house over 150,000 fossil vertebrate specimens of all shapes and sizes including representatives of every major group of vertebrates from around the world and spanning in age from the Ordovician to the late Pleistocene. This extensive collection is an invaluable scientific resource and can be viewed, in part, online but also via special appointment for intensive research purposes. Learn More


Research Spotlight

The Vertebrate Paleontology Department is continuously involved with a variety of projects including excavations in the field, scholarly research, and laboratory preparation work. One recent study focusing on rodent and marsupial teeth collected from Santa Rosa in eastern Perú, estimates that these specimens date back to the late Eocene. This is significant as this date is consistent with that of Paleocene-Eocene Yahuarango Formation, one of the oldest continental red beds of eastern Perú.  Learn More (Link to the Santa Rosa Project)

More information about current and past Vertebrate Paleontology research can be found here.