Fossil mammal collection

Fossil jaw of Missourium theristrocaulodon

Fossil jaw of Missourium theristrocaulodon, an extinct relative of the elephant. Unearthed in 1840 by Albert Koch on the banks of a river in Missouri.

The Museum's fossil mammal collection contains an estimated 250,000 specimens from around the world, and is rich in type and figured material.


The collection includes historical research sub-collections, such as mammalian material collected by Charles Darwin on the voyage of the Beagle.

We also have a very diverse collection of excellent collection of British Mesozoic mammals.

Britain’s colonial past has underpinned the growth of our collections. In addition to European material, we have collections from Australia, North America, South America, Africa and Asia.

Our European material includes many important collections, particularly of Tertiary age.

Highlights include:

  • large collections from Pikermi and Samos in Greece
  • the Quercy phosphorites
  • important historical collections from sites like Epplesheim, Germany
  • a small but significant collection from the Pleistocene of Weimar
  • material representing the famous European cave bear sites 
  • pioneering research collections assembled by Dorothea Bate from sites in and around the Mediterranean

Global collections

  • Australia
    The collection includes several pioneering sub-collections from Australia. This material was described by Richard Owen and is particularly rich in early type and figured specimens.
  • South America
    A significant highlight from South America is the early collection from the Mylodon Cave at Ultima Esperanza in southern Chile. Our Pleistocene collections from South America are rich in ground sloth specimens. There is also a very diverse collection from the Tertiary of southern Argentina. 
  • Africa
    Our holdings of African material are rich and diverse. They incorporate many pioneer collections, important pre-1936 collections of Louis Leakey, large collections from the Miocene and Pleistocene of East Africa and major holdings of Oligocene material from the Fayum of Egypt. Professor RJG Savage's research collections from the Miocene of Libya, recently assilimilated into the collections, are a major new resource.
  • Asia
    The principal collection comes from the Siwalik Hills in northern India and was assembled by Hugh Falconer and Proby T Cautley. It is particularly rich in the remains of large mammals, most notably the Proboscidea, and contains much of the material described in Fauna Antiqua Sivilensis. There are also important holdings from Maragah, Siberia, Borneo and Israel.
Skull of Arsinotherium

Skull of rhinoceros-like ungulate Arsinotherium from the Oligocene of Egypt


British collections

We have particularly important material from:

  • the Republic of Ireland
  • East Anglia
  • the Thames Valley
  • the caves of Devon

In terms of stratigraphic range, our British Pleistocene material is by far the most important collection in England, with major holdings from sites like:

  • Covehithe
  • Pakefield
  • West Runton
  • Boxgrove
  • Westbury-sub-Mendip
  • Swanscombe
  • Clacton
  • Grays
  • Trafalgar Square
  • Tornewton cave
  • Kent's Cavern
  • Gough's Cave

The Tertiary holdings are also very rich and diverse, with important material from:

  • Abbey Wood
  • Creechbarrow
  • the Isle of Wight

Looking for a specimen?

The fossil mammal collection is being digitised


Dr Spyridoula (Roula) Pappa

Neil Adams

Any questions ?

If you would like to use any specimens for research   

Geological range

The collection covers around 200 million years of mammalian evolutionary history, from the Early Jurassic to the Early Holocene.

Important historical collections


  • Australian collection
  • South American collection
  • North American collection
  • African collection
  • Asian collection
  • European collection
  • British Mesozoic mammals collection
  • British Collection
  • Richard Owen
  • Charles Darwin Collection
  • Bravard Collection
  • Koch Collection
  • Louis Leakey
  • Professor RJG Savage
  • Hugh Falconer and Proby T Cautley
  • Dorothea Bate

Collections on the move

We have set out on an ambitious programme to develop a new science and digitisation centre. As we prepare for the move, access to some collections will be affected. 

Find out more and sign up to our newsletter to receive updates on changes to collections access, relevant news and opportunities to get involved.

Accessing the collections

Scientists and collections management specialists can visit the collections and borrow specimens for research.

Collections management

Our duty is to provide a safe and secure environment for all of our collections.