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Paleontological Resources of the USGS in Denver

For more than 100 years the USGS has been maintaining a fossil collection in Denver.  The fossils are valuable resources for researchers in the USGS, other federal agencies, industry, and academia.  The collections are the biostratigraphic standard from which timing of important events in earth history are dated.  The collections are routinely used as the research basis for analyses of geologic mapping age control, climate change, faunal diversity, and extinction events.

Primary collections housed in the Denver repository include:

  • Lower Paleozoic trilobites and graptolites
  • Upper Paleozoic brachiopods
  • Upper Cretaceous ammonites and inoceramids
  • Triassic and Jurassic ammonites
  • Cenozoic Non-marine molluscs
  • Mesozoic and Cenozoic vertebrates
  • Mesozoic fusilinids.

In addition to the 1.2 million fossils, the collection includes a vast amount of metadata consisting of locality and taxonomic cards, ledgers, supplementary identification reports, field notes and maps.
Our challenge is to convert this analog data into digital data, georeference the fossil localities, and prepare searchable databases for each fossil collection.

Photo of horned rodent skull
Epigaulus hatcheri (Matthews 1901). This horned rodent is from the Miocene Dry Union Formation near Salida, CO. Partial skull discovered in 1968 by Glenn Scott and the horn cores discovered at the same locality one year later by Bob O'Donnell.

Highlights and Current Topics

Fossil Collection Database Progress

  • Mesozoic mollusks Western Interior, Cobban: 14,000 localities done
  • Mesozoic ammonites Gulfian Series, Conlin: 4,000 localities done
  • Mesozoic/Cenozoic western US vertebrates, Lewis collection: 1600 localities done
  • Cenozoic western US vertebrates, Repenning collection 1000 localities done
  • Paleozoic trilobites, Ross, Palmer, Taylor collections, 13,000 localities done
  • Paleozoic forams, Meyers collections, 400 records done


Volunteers and Advisors

  • Farley Fleming, advisor
  • Steve Hook, advisor
  • Bob Hunt, Nebraska University Museum; paleontologist, advisor and current researcher
  • James Kennedy, Oxford University Museum Director and paleontologist; advisor and current researcher
  • Jann Thompson, USNM Department of Paleobiology Collections Manager; advisor
  • Ireneusz Walaszczyk, Institute of Geology, University of Warsaw; geologist and paleontologist, advisor and current researcher
  • Scott Wing, USNM paleontologist, Department of Paleobiology Chairman; advisor

Key Collaborators

  • US National Museum of Natural History (Smithsonian)
  • Oxford University Museum of Natural History
  • American Museum of Natural History
  • USGS Field Records

Selected Products

Blome, C., McKinney, K.C. and others. 1999, The USGS Denver Paleontological Collection: A Growing Resource for paleontological Research, GSA poster session 1999 annual meeting. Denver.

Cobban, W.A., Walaszczyk, Ireneusz, Obradovich, J.D., and McKinney, K.C., 2006, A USGS zonal table for the Upper Cretaceous middle Cenomanian-Maastrichtian of the Western Interior of the United States based on ammonites, inoceramids, and radiometric ages: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2006-1250, 45 p.

Cobban, W.A., Sawyer, D. and McKinney, K.C., 2004. Cross Section of Upper Cretaceous Rocks (Dakota Sadstone-Point Lookout Sandstone) From Gallup to Lamy, Northern New Mexico. USGS Open-File Report-2004-1093.

Digital Catalog of Cambrian-Ordovician trilobites: collections by Pete Palmer, Rube Ross, and Mike Taylor.

Digital Catalog of the Gulfian Cretaceous ammonites: collections by J.P. Conlin.

Digital Catalog of the late Miocene-Pleistocene vertebrates: collections by Chuck Repenning.

Digital Catalog of the Triassic- Pleistocene vertebrates: collections by Ed Lewis.

Digital Catalog of Western Interior Cretaceous mollusks: collections by Bill Cobban.

Honey, J.G., 1996. Paleontology, taphonomy, and stratigraphy of the Browns Park formation (Oligocene and Miocene) near Maybell, Moffat County, Colorado. United States Geological Survey Professional Paper 1358.

Izett, G.A. 1974. Geologic map of the Trail Mountain quadrangle, Grand County, Colorado. U.S. Geological Survey, Geologic Quadrangle Map GQ-1156.

Izett, G.A. and Barclay, C.S.V. 1973. Geologic map of the Kremmling quadrangle, Grand County, Colorado. U.S. Geological Survey, Geologic Quadrangle Map GQ-1115.

Izett, G.A., Cobban, W.A., and Gill, J.R. 1971. The Pierre Shale near Kremmling, Colorado, and its correlation to the east and the west. U.S. Geological Survey, Professional Paper 684-A 18p.

Izett, G.A. 1968. Geology of the Hot Sulphur Springs quadrangle, Grand County, Colorado. U.S. Geological Survey, Professional Paper 586 79p.

Landman, N. and Cobban, W.A. ( in review) Chronologic Distribution of Middle Cenomanian-Maastrichtian (Upper Cretaceous) Scaphitid Ammonites in the Western Interior, Gulf and Atlantic Coastal Regions. Novitates of the American Museum of Natural History.

Kennedy, W.J. and Cobban, W.A. 2001. Campanian (late Cretaceous) ammonites from the Anacacho Limestone in central Texas. Acta Geologica Polonica, 51, 15-30, 6 pls.

Kennedy, W.J., Cobban, W.A. and Landman, N.H. 2001. Santonian ammonites from the Blossom Sand in northeast Texas. American Museum Novitates, 3332, 9pp., 5 figs.

Kennedy, W.J., Cobban, W.A. and Scott, G.R. 2000. Heteromorph ammonites from the Upper Campanian (Upper Cretaceous) Baculites cuneatus and Baculites reesidei zones of the Pierre Shale in Colorado, U.S.A. Acta Geologica Polonica, 50, 1-20, 5 pls.

Kennedy, W.J., Cobban, W.A. and Scott, G.R. 2000. Heteromorph ammonites from the Upper Campanian (Upper Cretaceous) Baculites scotti zone in the U.S. Western Interior. Acta Geologica Polonica, 50, 223-241, 15 pls.

Kennedy, W.J. and Gale, A.S. (In Press) Ammonites from the Weno Formation in Texas. Journal of Palaeontology.

Kennedy, W.J., Gale, A.S., Hancock, J.M. and Cobban, W. (In Press) Ammonites from the middle and upper Albian of Texas. Journal of Palaeontology.

Kennedy, W.J., Gale, A.S. and Hansen, T.P. 2001. The last Maastrichtian ammonites from the Brazos River section in Falls County, Texas. Cretaceous Research, 22, 163-171, 4 figs.

Kennedy, W.J., Landman, N.H., Cobban, W.A. and Scott, G.R., 2000. Late Campanian (Cretaceous) heteromorph ammonites from the Western Interior of the United States. Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History, 251, 88 pp., 67 figs.

Kennedy, W.J., Walaszczyk, I. and Cobban, W.A. 2000. Pueblo, Colorado, USA, Candidate Global Boundary Stratotype Section and Point for the base of the Middle Turonian Substage, with a revision of the Inoceramidae (Bivalvia). Acta Geologica Polonica, 50, 295-334, 12 figs, 15 pls.

McKinney, Kevin C., Digital Archive. Report upon the Colorado River of the West explored in 1857 and 1858 by Lieutenant Joseph C. Ives, Geological Report with maps by John S. Newberry, USGS Open-File 02-25 CD-ROM.

McKinney, Kevin C., 2001. Digital Archives. Thomas M. Bown's Bighorn Basin Maps- The Suite of Forty-four Office Master Copies. USGS Open-File 01-306 CD-ROM.

McKinney, Kevin C., Chaney, D. S. Williamson, T.E. and Tedford, R H.. 2002. Report Upon the Extinct Vertebrata Obtained in New Mexico by Parties of the Expedition of 1874, by Edward D. Cope, A Digital Archive with Multimedia Annotations, USGS Open-File 02-270 CD-ROM.

McKinney, Kevin C., Cobban, W.A. and Phan, N.T., 2003. GIS Application of the Newly Digitized USGS-Denver Cretaceous Fossil Mollusk Collection: GSA poster session 2003 annual meeting in Seattle.

McKinney, Kevin C., Cobban, W.A. and Phan, N.T, 2004. GIS Application of the Newly Digitized USGS-Denver Cretaceous Fossil Mollusk Collection. USGS Open-File Report-2004-1093.

McKinney, Kevin C., Tedford, R H., Morgan, G. and Williamson, T.E., 2002. Fossil Mammals of the Middle Rio Grande--Annotated Dataset and Bibliography of New Mexico Vertebrate Paleontology. USGS Open-File 01-023 CD-ROM.

Repenning, C.A., 1998. North American mammalian dispersal routes; rapid evolution and dispersal constrain precise biochronology. In Advances in vertebrate paleontology and geochronology , eds. Tomida, Y., Flynn, L.J., Jacobs, L.L., National Science Museum Monographs, vol.14, pp.39-78.


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