Today's hours: 12pm to 5pm 216.231.4600
The King of Dinosaurs

Vertebrate Paleontology

Dinosaurs, Dunkleosteus and more

Vertebrate paleontology is the study of ancient animals that have a vertebral column, including fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals. The Museum's Department of Vertebrate Paleontology maintains a collection of more than 7,000 specimens representing all of the major vertebrate groups. The collection emphasizes the Paleozoic, particularly the Devonian fishes.

One of the collection's standouts is Dunkleosteus terrelli, a 16-foot-long armored fish whose monstrous jaws acted as self-sharpening meat cleavers. Museums around the world display casts from this specimen, which is on exhibit in Kirtland Hall.

Other specimens of interest, also on exhibit in Kirtland Hall, are:


  • The holotype skeleton of a 72-foot-long Haplocanthosaurus delfsi
  • A Late Jurassic Allosaurus fragilis skeleton
  • The holotype skull of the Late Cretaceous Nanotyrannus lancensis, a small cousin of T. rex
  • A mounted Late Triassic Coelophysis bauri

The department continues to conduct research on the Cleveland Shale shark and arthrodire fauna. The department has also expanded its research focus to include dinosaurs.

The Vertebrate Paleontology Department has a long tradition of working with volunteers and students to help us accomplish all the tasks that go on in the department. Projects that always require volunteer help include: fossil preparation (including both fish and dinosaur fossils), assistance with collections (including cleaning, inventory, and data entry) and casting and molding projects.

The Department of Vertebrate Paleontology offers programs giving an opportunity for a more in-depth look at the discipline. Undergraduate students interested in a paid summer internship in this discipline are encouraged to investigate the Kirtlandia Research Internship Program.

Curator of Vertebrate Paleontology: Dr. Michael Ryan

If you would like to contact the Vertebrate Paleontology department you may contact
Dr. Ryan at mryan@cmnh.org or (216) 231-4600, ext. 3246, or
Amanda McGee, Collection Manager, at amcgee@cmnh.org or (216) 231-4600, ext. 3275 or ext. 3227