The Texas Vertebrate Paleontology Collections are known worldwide as a major repository for unique scientific collections from the American Southwest. Organized in 1949 by the late Dr. John (Jack) A. Wilson, Emeritus Professor of Geology at The University of Texas at Austin, the collections are the principal repository for vertebrate fossils collected from state and federal lands in Texas and contiguous areas, as well as for specimens collected elsewhere using state and federal funds.
The fossil vertebrate holdings rank among the seven largest in North America. Most of its specimens were collected by faculty, staff and students from The University of Texas at Austin. Current holdings also include several important collections made over the last two centuries by other Texas universities and research organizations. These were transferred to The University of Texas at Austin by legislative mandate and under agreements with those organizations to insure the continued maintenance and accessibility of research and teaching specimens. They have provided the foundation for many published studies on Texas geology and paleontology, and on the evolution of vertebrates.
General strengths of the collections are in its holdings from Early Permian terrestrial sediments, Late Triassic terrestrial sediments, Late Cretaceous marine and terrestrial sediments, Tertiary terrestrial sediments, and rich Quaternary cave deposits. The collections also include representative vertebrate fossils from other parts of the world that date back to the Ordovician, and casts of important specimens held in other museums. A large collection of Recent vertebrate osteological specimens plus an extensive scientific library augment our vertebrate fossil research and teaching collections.
The Texas Vertebrate Paleontology Collections plays a major role in public outreach and education. Outstanding specimens from the collection are on exhibit at the Texas Science & Natural History Museum. Holdings have also been on display at the American Museum of Natural History, Big Bend National Park, the Museum of Texas Tech University, the Austin Nature and Science Center, National Museum of Natural History (Smithsonian Institution), the Perot Museum of Nature and Science, and the Witte Museum. Professional staff provide advice on the identification and management of fossils and fossil resources to federal, state and tribal agencies, to corporations and environmental consulting firms, and to private individuals.
Another role for the Texas Vertebrate Paleontology Collections has been in technology development and informatics. In particular, through its involvement with the UT High Resolution X-ray Computed Tomography Facility, the collections are fostering application of exciting new technologies such as CT scanning and sophisticated 3-D imaging software to the morphology of fossil and Recent vertebrate specimens.
Sponsorship of research has been provided by the Geology Foundation of The University of Texas at Austin, National Science Foundation, Texas Advanced Technology Program, and Intel Foundation.
|Matthew A. Brown|