Dan Lagiovane, Media Relations Manager
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For Immediate Release
Contact: Dan Lagiovane (412) 622-3361

April 11, 2002

The History of Vertebrate Paleontology at Carnegie Museum of Natural History

The collection and exhibition of fossil vertebrates at Carnegie Museum of Natural History dates to the museum's grand opening in 1895, when it exhibited a giant Irish elk purchased from the British Museum of Natural History. Added to the display the following year was a nearly complete skeleton of an American mastodon, which turned out to be a popular attraction, bringing in some 500,000 visitors a year into the museum in its early years.

A great leap forward for the vertebrate fossil collections and exhibits occurred in 1898, when dinosaurs first attracted the attention of Andrew Carnegie. Mr. Carnegie wrote to the museum's first director, Dr. W. J. Holland, instructing him to "get one [dinosaur] for Pittsburgh." In 1899, Carnegie placed funds at Holland's disposal for paleontological research in the Rocky Mountain region. Jacob Wortman, the first Curator of Vertebrate Paleontology at Carnegie Museum of Natural History, was soon hired to search for dinosaurs in the Morrison Formation at Sheep Creek, Wyoming. Later that year, Wortman discovered three specimens of the sauropod Diplodocus, one of which was designated as the "type specimen"-the specimen by which all other dinosaurs of that species are evaluated-of Diplodocus carnegii.

Carnegie Museum of Natural History's quest for dinosaurs quickly moved to Colorado, where a new Curator, John Bell Hatcher-joined by Charles W. Gilmore in 1901 and William H. Utterback in 1902-was soon shipping carloads of fossils back to Pittsburgh. Earl Douglass joined the Carnegie paleontologists in 1902. His fieldwork took him to northeastern Utah's Morrison Formation, a quarry that eventually became known as Dinosaur National Monument, where he discovered spectacular assemblages of dinosaur bones.

Home of the Dinosaur Carnegie Museum is the home of two of the world's most famous dinosaurs, Diplodocus carnegii, or Dippy, and Tyrannosaurus rex. Named after Andrew Carnegie, Diplodocus carnegii was not only the best, almost-complete dinosaur skeleton known in the 1900s, but also the largest land animal known at that time. At the prompting of King Edward VII of England, Andrew Carnegie instructed Holland and Hatcher to create a cast of Diplodocus carnegii for the British Museum, thus beginning an unprecedented effort by Carnegie Museum of Natural History to give 10 replicas of Diplodocus carnegii as gifts to other prominent museums in Europe and throughout North and South America. Carnegie's generosity made Dippy the most celebrated dinosaur of the early 20th century.

In 1942, Carnegie Museum of Natural History purchased from the American Museum of Natural History the type specimen of Tyrannosaurus rex, the largest carnivore known to have ever lived on earth.

Tyrannosaurus rex, or T. rex, on exhibit in Dinosaur Hall, has inspired numerous popular icons, from the children's beloved "Barney" to the fearsome predator that was the star in the movie Jurassic Park.

In 1903, Carnegie purchased from a European private collector the Bayet Collection of fossil plants, invertebrates, and vertebrates. This brought to the museum the Western Hemisphere's finest Jurassic pterosaurs (flying reptiles) and fishes from the Bavarian Solnhofen Limestone, as well as vertebrates from other famous European localities, such as Cerin (Jurassic of France) and Monte Bolca (Eocene of Italy).

Early exploration by the museum's vertebrate paleontologists also accumulated fossil mammals from the Tertiary of Montana and Nebraska. In 1905, Curator and Field Collector O. A. Peterson found rich deposits of Miocene mammals in a region in western Nebraska, which is now known as Agate Springs Fossil Beds National Monument.

From the 1930s through the 1950s, field work continued primarily in Montana and Utah, where Curator J. Leroy Kay pursued Eocene and Oligocene vertebrates. His many assistants, including John Burke, William Moran, John Guilday, John Dorr, and John Clark, did research on a diversity of fossil vertebrateS.

A Tradition of Discovery
In 1960, Craig Black joined the curatorial staff, reviving the museum's collecting and research in the Eocene of Wyoming, an enterprise that continued with Leonard Krishtalka, Richard Stucky, and current members of the staff, Mary Dawson and Chris Beard. David Berman (also a current member of the staff) collects and studies Paleozoic vertebrates. Quaternary studies were previously pursued by John Guilday and Tony Barnosky.

Overseeing the scientific aspect of the museum's current expansion project is the museum's team of internationally known paleontologists. Dr. Mary Dawson, head curator of paleontology at the museum, is a fossil mammal expert concentrating on early Tertiary faunas and the evolution of rodents and rabbits. In 1981, she received the prestigious Arnold Guyot Prize, awarded by the National Geographic Society in recognition of her research in the Arctic, which produced fossil evidence that North America and Europe were linked and shared the same animal types 45-50 million years ago. In 2002, she is celebrating her 40th year at the museum.

Dr. Chris Beard was a 2000 recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship "Genius Grant" for his work, which is reshaping critical debates about the evolutionary and geographical origins of mammals. He is considered one of the world's leading authorities on the evolution of early primates.

Dr. David Berman is the only current paleontologist on staff who has collected a dinosaur for the museum, acquiring Coelophysis from Ghost Ranch, New Mexico, in the early 1980s. In addition to his research of life in the Early Permian, he is credited for correctly identifying the proper skull for Apatosaurus, ending a century-long year argument.

Dr. Zhe-xi Luo is one of the world's foremost specialists in Mesozoic animals. His most recent international discovery, a paperclip size mammal from the Mesozoic, is the smallest known Mesozoic mammal and represents a new branch on the mammalian family tree. It was featured in Science and named one of the 100 most important scientific discoveries of 2001 by Discover magazine. He is currently working on a paper describing another important early mammal discovery from 130 million years ago.

The Collections Today, Carnegie Museum of Natural History's fossil collections include approximately 103,000 specimens, ranging in age from Late Silurian to Quaternary, and encompassing all vertebrate classes from Agnatha through Mammalia. Of these, 376 are primary types.

Particularly outstanding are holdings of:
o Permo-Carboniferous fishes and tetrapods from the tristate (western Pennsylvania, eastern Ohio, West Virginia), mid-continent (Texas, Kansas, Oklahoma), and Four Corners (New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Colorado)

o Permian reptiles from Madagascar o Jurassic fish, rhynchocephalians, and pterosaurs from Solnhofen fish from the Mississippian of Montana, Jurassic of Cerin, France, and Eocene of Monte Bolca, Italy

o Jurassic and Cretaceous dinosaurs from Wyoming, Utah, and Montana o Late Paleocene mammals from Montana and Wyoming

o Paleocene-Eocene vertebrates from Mississippi.

o Eocene vertebrates from the Wind River Basin, Wyoming, and Uinta Basin, Utah

o Eocene and Oligocene faunas from western Montana (Sage Creek, Three Forks, Kishenehn basins)

o Early Miocene vertebrates from Agate Springs, Nebraska, and vicinity

o Miocene vertebrates from Samos, Greece, and western Montana

o Quaternary vertebrates of the Appalachians

Click here to access images related to the expansion of Dinosaur Hall.

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