Fossil reptile collections

The Natural History Museum houses approximately 33,100 fossil reptile specimens ranging in age from the Carboniferous to the Pleistocene. The fossil reptile collections are exceptionally rich in historically-important type and figured specimens.

The collections include the holotype specimen of the oldest known reptile, Hylonomus lyelli, from the late Carboniferous of Joggins, Nova Scotia.

Origins of the collection

The core of the fossil reptile collections was founded on bequests, donations and purchases in the 19th century following an increased interest in the natural world in Victorian Britain and the age of the British Empire. 

As a result, there are a large number of important specimens that reflect the foundation and early history of fossil reptile studies, both geologically and chronologically.

Details

What does the collection contain?

All major reptile clades are represented, by either original fossil specimens or casts. 

Geological range:

Carboniferous to Pleistocene

Geographical range:

There is significant material from all continents, including Antarctica.

British material predominates and includes:

  • Lower and Middle Jurassic marine reptiles (ichthyosaurs and plesiosaurs)
  • Late Triassic to Early Cretaceous dinosaurs
  • Jurassic to Tertiary turtles
  • Jurassic and Cretaceous pterosaurs (including Dimorphodon, discovered by Mary Anning from the Lower Lias of the Dorset coast)
  • Jurassic to Tertiary crocodiles
  • significant collections of microvertebrates including
    • Jurassic and Early Cretaceous lepidosauromorphs
    • archosauromorphs
    • Palaeogene lizards and snakes
  • Temnodontosaurus platyodon (Conybeare)
    Marine reptile collection

    Learn about the marine reptile fossils in our collections. Highlights include fossils discovered by Mary Anning from the Lower Lias of the Dorset coast, and type and figured skeletons of Callovian ichthyosaurs and plesiosaurs from Cambridgeshire.

  • Fossil skeleton of the mosasaur Platycarpus ictericus
    Lepidosaur collection

    Our fossil reptile collections include a large number of Eocene lizards and snakes, 2 unique Lower Miocene amphisbaenids and late Cretaceous mosasaurs. Discover more about the lepidosaur fossils cared for by the Palaeontology Department.  

  • Iguanodon dinosaur
    Dinosaur collection  

    The Natural History Museum houses one of the word's most important dinosaur collections. It currently includes 157 taxa, with particular strengths in British, Canadian and African dinosaurs. Find out more about this extensive collection.

  • Fossil skull of the extinct mammal-like reptile Cynognathus
    Anapsid and synapsid collections

    Our collections contain a large amount of Anapsida and Synapsida material from Africa. There are 115 synapsid species represented, as well as paraeiasaurs. Find out more about the specimens and their origins.

  • Dimorphodon skull.
    Pterosaur collection

    The Museum pterosaur collection comprises approximately 1000 specimens, from isolated incomplete bones to articulated skeletons on slabs.

  • Rhamphosuchus crassidens
    Crocodylomorph and early archosaur collections

    These collections contain an estimated 5000 specimens with at least a fifth of the collection space being occupied by Triassic archosaurs from the UK and abroad. Learn more about these fascinating collections.

Original material in the collection

There is original material in the collection for the following groups:

  • Early reptiles
  • Synapsida
  • Anapsida
    • pareiasaurs
    • procolophonids
    • testudines
  • Diapsida
    • Ichthyosauria
    • Sauropterygia
      • Plesiosauria
    • Lepidosauria
    • Rhynchosauria
    • Archosauria
      • ‘Early archosaurs’  including proterosuchians, aetosaurs and phytosaurs
      • Crocodylia
      • Pterosauria
      • Dinosauria
        • Saurisichia (Theropoda)
        • Ornithischia