About the PRI Collection
PRI houses one of the eight largest American collections of
fossils and Recent shells, with over 2 million specimens. Many of these
specimens represent invertebrates - animals without backbones. The collection
represents a staggering array of living things; from the tiny shells of
single-celled organisms to dinosaur bones and woolly mammoth teeth. Many
of our specimens are especially valuable, because they are from localities
now destroyed or unavailable for study today. Among those specimens are
over 30,000 type and figured specimens, the 5th largest such
collection in the United States.
In 1994-95 the invertebrate fossil and Recent mollusk collections
of Cornell University were transferred
to PRI on long term loan.
Cenozoic mollusks in Central New York?
Although sea shells from the Cenozoic Era (from 64 million
years ago to present) are not found in the central New York, the PRI collection
is particularly rich in both Cenozoic and modern snail and clam shells,
due to the research and collecting efforts of PRI's founder, Dr.
Gilbert Harris. Dr. Harris and his students specialized in these interesting
The fossils of New York State
PRI's collection of New York State fossils is large and
growing rapidly. New and rare local fossils enter the institution every
week, obtained during staff expeditions and from the generous donations
of collectors and researchers.
What's a type collection?
The most important collection at PRI is the type and
figured specimen collection. Type specimens are those few fossils
picked to show the most important features of a newly named species, and
must be carefully examined when naming newly discovered fossils. The type
and figured collection at PRI numbers over 33 thousand specimens, which
makes it one of the five largest type collections in the United States.