Fossil Vertebrates

In the fossil vertebrate collection of the NHMW, about 500.000 objects are available for scientific purpose.

Fossil mammals
The NHMW houses some hundreds of thousands of fossil bones and teeth of extinct mammals. Their collecting dates back to the 19th century and lasts up to nowadays. The fossil mammal collection is dominated by fossils from the Miocene and Pleistocene from Austria and other European countries. Visiting researchers from all around the world regularly access this collection to study the famous mammalian faunas e.g. from Kohfidisch (Austria), Devínska Nová Ves (Slovakia), Samos, Pikermi (both Greece), and Maragheh (Iran). Also, the collection of fossil primates from several Miocene European sites is regularly considered for investigations by international scientists. Another important part of the collection is that of the Pleistocene large mammals. One of the largest collections of cave bears is stored at the NHMW, as well as some worth seeing large mammals from South America. Of special scientific importance is the collection of about 30.000 small mammal teeth from Paleogene and Miocene localities of Austria and Mongolia.
Fossil birds
The paleornithological collection comprises about 1500 remains of fossil birds from the Paleogene, Neogene and Pleistocene of Austria and other European countries. Of special scientific importance are the rich historic collections of fossil Moa skeletons from New Zealand and of elephant birds from Madagascar.
Fossil amphibians and reptiles
The collection of fossil amphibians from the Carboniferous of Nýřany (Czechia) at the NHMW enjoys an international reputation. Also, scientifically important are the Triassic fossils of terrestrial reptiles from the Karroo Formation in South Africa, as well as those of marine reptiles (e.g. sauropterygians), originating from Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg (both Germany), Silesia (Poland) and South Tyrol (Italy). One of the most amazing Austrian fossils of that time is the marine reptile Mystriosuchus, which was excavated in 2000m above sea level in the “Totes Gebirge” mountains in Styria.
Scientifically important vertebrate fossils from the Jurassic comprise some extraordinary skeletons of crocodiles, pterosaurs, and ichthyosaurs from sites in Germany (e.g. Solnhofen, Holzmaden) and England. Some special highlights of Cretaceous reptiles are the skeletons of the small-sized dinosaurs Protoceratops and Psittacosaurus from Mongolia, the skeleton of one of the oldest aquatic snakes (Pachyophis) from Bosnia-Herzegovina, and the five meters-long skeleton of the giant marine turtle Archelon from the USA. Furthermore, the NHMW houses a rich Cenozoic herpetological collection with fossils from different sites of Austria. In this connection, the collection of abundant fossil turtles is worth mentioning.
Fossil fish
The majority of the 13.000 remains of fossil fish comes from Paleogene and Miocene deposits in Austria and other European countries. It comprises the extraordinary collection of the world-famous Eocene site of Monte Bolca in Italy, of Miocene fish fossils from historic brick clay pits in the city if Vienna, or from the quarry St. Margarethen (Burgenland, Austria).
Also, the Mesozoic and Paleozoic fishes in the NHMW collection are of special scientific value. Worth mentioning are the rich fossil fish-faunas from the Triassic of Polzberggraben near Lunz or of Raibl in northern Italy, the Jurassic fish-fossils from Solnhofen (Germany), or the Cretaceous fish faunas from the Lebanon and Brazil. But also, the Paleozoic fish faunas housed in the NHMW are highly requested by researchers, like e.g. fish fossils from the Devonian of Canada and Russia, from the Carboniferous deposits in Great Britain and Czechia, or from the Permian epoch in Bohemia, Thuringia and Hesse.

Priv.-Doz. Dr. Ursula Göhlich


Published type-catalogues:

  • Pia J. & Sickenberg, O. 1934. Katalog der in den Österreichischen Sammlungen befindlichen Säugetierreste des Jungtertiärs Österreichs und der Randgebiete. - Denkschriften den Naturhistorischen Museums Wien 4, Geologisch-Paläontologische Reihe 4: 544 S. - Leipzig und Wien (Verlag Deuticke)