Major and historic collections

The fossil fish collection at the Natural History Museum originated from the collections of the Earl of Enniskillen and Sir Philip de Malpas Grey Egerton.

Other important collections include:

  • David Kemp Collection
    Tertiary UK fishes, donated in 2007.
  • Gogo Collection 
    Collected by Harry Toombs in the 1960s from the Late Devonian Gogo Formation of western Australia. Fossil taxa include lungfish and other sarcopterygians, a variety of placoderms and actinopterygians. 
  • Stan Wood Collection
    UK Carboniferous fishes, including actinopterygians and chondrichthyans.
  • Frederick Dixon Collection
    Specimens from the Chalk of Sussex, the Tertiary Bracklesham Beds, as well as Brazil, Monte Bolca in Italy.
  • Westoll Collection
    A wide variety of Devonian Scottish fossils including jawless fish (Achanarella), and gnathostomes such as the placoderm Coccosteus and the sarcopterygians Osteolepis, Thursius, Dipterus and Gyroptychius.
  • Alfred Nicholson Leeds Collection
    Fossil fishes include the largest actinopterygian known, Leedsichthys problematica. It was a plankton feeder, straining food by passing water over its gills. The other fishes from this collection are notable for the preservation of the skull bones.
  • Gideon Mantell Collection
    Mantell’s early collection consists of many fossils from the Chalk of the Upper Cretaceous of Sussex, including fish such as chondrichthyans (represented by shark teeth) and actinopterygians.The first portion of the collection was acquired from Mantell in 1838 after the failure of his museum.

Using palaeontology collections

Harry Toombs

Harry Toombs pioneered an acid-preparation technique which allowed limestone nodules to be digested or broken down in a weak acetic acid solution, using the technique on nodules he collected from the Late Devonian Gogo Formation of western Australia.

As fossil fish bones were exposed, they were protected with various types of glue. Over time the entire fish was exposed.

This method has also been used for a variety of other fossil fishes in our collection.