Would you believe us if we told you that giant sloths, camels, tapirs, and mammoths once roamed San Diego County? Or that whales, enormous sea cows, and walruses swam through seas that have drained and been replaced by our deserts? It's all true—and we know this thanks to our region’s incredible fossils.
The greater Southern California and Baja California region is one of the most fossil-rich areas in the United States, with rocks preserving an archive of the last 140 million years. Its ancient history is full of dramatic change and exceptional biodiversity—and The Nat’s Paleontology Department is here to carefully unearth, study, and share those stories.
By studying fossils, we can recreate a picture of what our world was like in the ancient past and come away with lessons about extinction and evolution, past climate changes and their impact on ecosystems, and ultimately about how future climate changes can affect the ecosystems we rely on and the survival of species at risk of extinction today.
Our Paleontology team cares for more than 1.5 million animal and plant fossils, collected mostly in Southern California and northern Baja California, Mexico. About 80 percent of our fossils were saved from the scrape of bulldozers through the consulting work of our PaleoServices Team.
Every day, we're out in the field and in the Museum’s labs piecing together the great story of life in our region. Many of our coolest finds are on display in the museum, while others have made major news headlines in Smithsonian Magazine, The Washington Post, and National Geographic. Our greatest discovery, though, might just be the next one.
Our Paleontology Team is always up to something, whether we're in the fossil prep lab, the collection, the field, or a construction site. Check out some of our biggest discoveries, catch up on current project news, and read select publications. More.
The Nat’s Paleontology collection is the most important repository for our region’s fossil record, and we return to it every day with new questions and new technologies to discover more about the history of life on Earth. Our fossils reveal a story of dramatic changes in plant and animal diversity, ecosystems, habitats, and climate over the last 140 million years. More.
PaleoServices is a consulting arm of the Museum specializing in the collection, salvage, preparation, and curation of paleontological resources (fossils) from land slated for development. Services also include record searches, paleontological resource assessment of properties, and paleontological mitigation plans. More.
Our Paleontology and PaleoServices staff have a wide range of backgrounds and scientific expertise. Together, they possess nearly 350 years of combined experience in the field, on construction sites, and in the lab. More.