The paleontology collections were begun by Michael J. Tuomey in the mid 1800s and were used extensively for teaching purposes. Most of the collection was presumably lost during the Civil War when federal troops destroyed the University of Alabama campus. Only a few of Tuomey’s original “cabinet” specimens survive in the collections of the Alabama Museum of Natural History and the Geological Survey of Alabama.
In the 1870s, as professor and state geologist, Eugene Allen Smith, directed students on field trips throughout the state where they collected many new specimens and met persons who also contributed to the collections.
Dr. Dana Ehret is Curator of Paleontology.
The Invertebrate Paleontology Collection is estimated to contain over 20,000 lots of specimens, although only 4,000 are catalogued. Specimens are mainly from the Oligocene, Eocene, and Cretaceous deposits of Alabama. The Paleogene (Eocene plus Oligocene) deposits in Alabama are considered to be among the best in the world.
The Vertebrate Paleontology Collection consists of over 8,000 catalogued items, most of which consist of individual specimens. The collection contains items from the Pennsylvanian, Cretaceous and Paleogene deposits of Alabama, but focuses primarily on Cretaceous and Eocene marine formations. The vertebrate collections have strong representation of Cretaceous mosasaurs, Eocene whales, and Pennsylvanian trackways from the Union Chapel Mine trackway site.
The Paleobotany Collection consists of over 400 specimens catalogued, mostly from the Pennsylvanian and Cretaceous of Alabama, as well as petrified wood from Arizona.