Not sure if this is the best stackexchange to ask...

I have not been able to find a decent database of fossils on the web, does one exist?

Here are some of the links I have found through Wikipedia and Google:

What are the best places to get fossil data and images of the fossils? Or are museums and textbooks the only alternative?

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ If you already found some sites that fit the bill, they may be better off posted as an answer. Per the FAQ: avoid asking subjective questions where... your answer is provided along with the question, and you expect more answers: "I use ______ for ______, what do you use?". $\endgroup$
    – Adam Lear
    Jun 7, 2012 at 19:54
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ What are you looking for that these sites lack? $\endgroup$ Jun 8, 2012 at 2:19
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    $\begingroup$ paleodb.org seems to have a huge database linking fossil records to publications. But it is not clear what you want, nor is it clear why the 16 pages you listed are insufficient. If you clarify that I am sure someone will be more able to help. $\endgroup$
    – rg255
    Nov 12, 2012 at 10:42
  • $\begingroup$ there are a few places trying to create a comprehensive list, but most of those are still specialized towards things like vertebrates or pollen. the morphbank in particular want to not only create a list but also include all relationship studies in a single searchable index. Adam gives a good reason why these take so much time and effort to create. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Nov 30, 2016 at 3:57
  • $\begingroup$ tolweb.org can at least give you names. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Nov 30, 2016 at 4:17

1 Answer 1


No. Museums are the traditional repository for fossils, and the process of "digitizing" their collections is slow and labor intensive. Often, the museums only aim to digitize what me might call the "meta-data" associated with the fossil, as was done here: http://ucmpdb.berkeley.edu/cgi/ucmp_query2?admin=&query_src=ucmp_index&table=ucmp2&spec_id=V8111&one=T

A truly comprehensive database is not feasible in the near future. A single photograph likely would not be sufficient to characterize the fossil -- the interesting components of fossils are often microscopic. For example:


Even taking a single photograph can be very labor intensive, and fossils can be fragile. Proper photo-documentation would probably require multiple images. More generally, a comprehensive database would probably need to include non-photographic data relating to the fossil -- such as chemical composition of non-visual imaging techniques (X-ray, IR, UV, etc).

For the foreseeable future, "comprehensive" collections will be housed in museums without full digital representation. The only way to know how comprehensive these collections are is to ask the museum curator, who will be aware of the scope and limitations of the collection.


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