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Invertebrate Paleontology is the study of fossil animals that lack notochords (non-vertebrates).

This includes large, diverse taxonomic groups such as mollusks (e.g., bivalves and gastropods), brachiopods (e.g., lamp shells), corals, arthropods (e.g., crabs, shrimps, and barnacles), echinoderms (e.g., sand dollars, sea urchins, and sea stars), sponges, annelids (worms), foraminifera (single-celled protists), and bryozoans (moss animals).

These are all animals that, throughout most of Earth’s geological history, lived in a multitude of habitats including marine, freshwater, and terrestrial. Fossils are any trace of a previously living organism, and although invertebrates do not have “true” bones, they leave behind evidence of their past in the form of shells, molds and casts, track ways, fecal pellets, tubes, and exoskeletons. Fossil invertebrates are useful in many types of scientific studies, including pure systematics, applications in stratigraphy, and studying and reconstructing prehistoric environments.

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The Florida Museum’s Invertebrate Paleontology Collection is largely composed of fossil invertebrates from the Cenozoic Era (last 65 million years) collected from Florida, the southeastern U.S., and the circum-Caribbean. The collection is composed of five parts: Systematic Collection, Stratigraphic Collection, Teaching Collection, Micropaleontology Collection, and Type and Figured Collection.

  • The largest is the Systematic Collection, where specimens are arranged in phylogenetic order. This collection, which acts much like a library, is used in comparative studies and aids in identification.
  • The Stratigraphic Collection contains material collected in situ (in place) that is organized by location and stratigraphic sequence. This collection is used in determining the age and type of sediments in which fossils are discovered.
  • The Teaching Collection contains material from the Mesozoic and Paleozoic Eras. It serves as a resource to educators for demonstrating life’s diversity throughout the ages.
  • The Micropaleontology Collection contains foraminifera and ostracodes (bivalved arthropods), which are valuable in stratigraphy, paleoecology, and paleoclimatology.
  • The Type and Figured Collection contains specimens cited in scientific publications.