Fossils

Marine fossils come in many shapes and sizes. They range from early whale and dolphin bones to megaladon teeth that help us learn about the first sharks, and even small single-celled foraminifera.

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On a beach in Piña, Panama the tide is rolling out. Faint outlines of skeletal remains rise above the sand. Smithsonian scientists Nicholas Pyenson and Aaron O'Dea along with a team of students descend...
Smithsonian curator of fossil marine mammals Nick Pyenson and a team of...
Blog entry MORE STORIES Blog entry MORE AUDIO / VIDEO
The whales that we see in today's world can broadly be split into two groups:...
Blog entry MORE STORIES Blog entry MORE AUDIO / VIDEO
One of the ocean's tiniest organisms often does the most harm. Microscopic...

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Offshore Peru, during the Eocene (~56-34 million years ago), showing three archaeocetes (ancient whales), along with a previously described fossil penguin. Top to bottom: Perudyptes devriesi , unnamed protocetid, Ocucajea...
How long have jellyfish lived in the ocean? This jellyfish fossil is from...
This well-preserved fossil is the only intact partial skull ever found of a...

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When you're standing in a museum surrounded by fossils, you can almost imagine drifting through time to when long-extinct...
This well-preserved fossil is the only intact partial skull ever found of a white shark that lived about 6.5 million years ago called Carcharodon hubbelli . The fossil jaw contains 222 teeth, some in...
Monodontids, the group of whales that includes living belugas and narwhals, are emblematic symbols of the Arctic. However, the fossil record shows that these animals had a much larger range than the...
Jorge and I arrived in Panama City around 3 pm this afternoon, and took a taxi to the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI)'s headquarters in the Gorgas neighborhood of downtown Panama City...
The evolution of whales represents one of the great stories in macroevolution. It's a narrative that has mostly benefitted from an extraordinary series of fossils recovered from rocks around the...
Paeleobiologist Dr. Nicholas Pyenson, Curator of Fossil Marine Mammals for the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History (NMNH), set out with Jorge Velez-Juarbe, NMNH Research Student and Ph...
These deep-sea sediment cores were drilled from beneath the seafloor, and hold information about millions of years of ocean and atmospheric chemistry. As dirt, dead organisms, and other particles...
How long have jellyfish lived in the ocean? This jellyfish fossil is from the Cambrian period, more than 500 million years ago. It was found buried in Utah —an area that used to be underwater,...
Paeleobiologist Dr. Nicholas Pyenson, Curator of Fossil Marine Mammals for the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History (NMNH), set out with Jorge Velez-Juarbe, NMNH Research Student and Ph...
Globotruncana falsostuarti -- a foram that lived about 75 million years ago, during the Cretaceous Period, from southeastern Tanzania. By measuring the chemistry in the shell, scientists can estimate...
On a beach in Piña, Panama the tide is rolling out. Faint outlines of skeletal remains rise above the sand. Smithsonian scientists Nicholas Pyenson and Aaron O'Dea along with a team of students...
Brian Huber studies fossil organisms known as “ forams ” to learn about climate change in this video snippet from the Smithsonian Marine Collections video . More about world climate change can be...
Nick Pyenson, the curator of fossil marine mammals at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, points to the skull and skeleton of a fossil "toothed" mysticete ( baleen whale ) on the...
Dugongs , along with manatees , make up a group of marine mammals called sirenians or seacows . In the modern world, only one species of seacow is found in any one place in the world. However, the...
Paleobiologist Mark D. Uhen drills away rock to reveal the fossilized bones of Peruvian archaeocetes (ancient whales), in the Vertebrate Paleontology Department at the Museo de Historia Natural de...
Paeleobiologist Dr. Nicholas Pyenson, Curator of Fossil Marine Mammals for the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History (NMNH), set out with Jorge Velez-Juarbe, NMNH Research Student and Ph...
Reaching almost three feet (one meter) long, Anomalocaris canadensis was enormous for this time period.
The whales that we see in today's world can broadly be split into two groups: those with teeth (odontocetes), and those that have baleen (mysticetes) instead of teeth. These two groups share a common...
One of the ocean's tiniest organisms often does the most harm. Microscopic algae can grow rapidly to form harmful algal blooms (sometimes called "red tides"), which create unhealthy water conditions...
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