Invertebrate Paleontologyconducts research, research training and graduate education on the world’s fossil invertebrates – their relevance to evolutionary theory, their phylogenetic significance, as well as their paleobiogeography, paleoecology, and morphology. These studies are grounded in research collections of more than 900,000 specimens and their associated data. Research in Invertebrate Paleontology focuses on macroevolutionary theory and evolutionary patterns during key time periods in the history of life.


The invertebrate paleontology collection is ranked among the top 10 largest fossil invertebrate collections in the country and has over 900,000 fossil invertebrate and microfossil specimens from all over the world, including more than 11000 type specimens. These specimens have been used in paleontological research for over 125 years.  The collection has taxonomic strengths in Cambrian trilobites; Upper Paleozoic invertebrates of the mid-continent; Cambrian soft-bodied faunas from Utah; brachiopods; echinoderms; and Mesozoic cephalopods from the mid-continent. Research access to the collections is arranged on a case-by-case basis. Please contact for additional details.



Invertebrate Paleontology focuses on the study of macroevolutionary patterns and processes using analysis of the fossil record, especially trilobites and other arthropods. Areas of interest include evolutionary theory, biogeography, and phylogenetics; key time periods in the history of life such as the Cambrian radiation and the late Ordovician mass extinction; the ecology, competition, biogeography, and macroevolution in the Cretaceous Western Interior Seaway; and macroevolution in deep time using ecological niche modeling and phylogenetic biogeography.


Research by former division post-doc, and now division research affiliate and 1,000 Talents Scholar Luke Strotz, along with division senior curator Bruce S. Lieberman, collections manager Julien Kimmig, and professor Erin Saupe of Oxford University provides new insight into how physiology governs macroevolution.  See: "Metabolic rates, climate and macroevolution: a case study using Neogene Molluscs"  .  The article was featured at several sites including The Washington Post and CNN and also was the subject of a KU press release.  The research was supported by BSL's NSF-ADBC PALEONICHES award.

Utah Fossil photo

Utah’s Cambrian Life

Evidence of Utah's Cambrian life is revealed by an exceptionally well-preserved fossil record of soft-bodied life forms that rarely stand any chance of becoming fossils. Fossil deposits that show such exceptional preservation are very important to paleontologists because they can reveal fossils of entire groups of completely soft-bodied ancient animals, such as worms, that would typically stand next to no chance of entering the fossil record. Explore Utah’s Cambrian Life.