New York City Travel
Extinct mammals paleontology exhibits and permanent collections in the museum. Guide and description for visitors.    
American Museum of Natural History.


In the east corridor of the 4th floor of the American Museum of Natural History, Immediately in front of the elevators is a wall case in which recently acquired specimens are installed. Near the stairway landings are fossil skeletons of the Mosasaur, or great marine lizard from the chalk beds of Kansas, and a number of Ichthyosaurs, from the slate quarries of Holzmaden, Germany. One of the Ichthyosaurs contains the skeletons of seven young, unborn, partly within and partly drifted out of the body cavity.

The skeletons of extincts mamals in this and the adjoining halls are those of extinct mammals, most of which have been buried for so long that they have become petrified. In a few instances, however, such as the great Irish deer and mastodon, the skeletons are not petrified, and their present good condition is due to their complete burial for ages in peat bogs, in the frozen soil of northern Alaska or in deposits of asphalt.'s

To give the visitor of the American Museum of Natural History a clear idea of how theseextincts mamals appeared in life, many of the skeletons have been removed from the matrix in which they were found, and have been mounted in lifelike attitudes; their probable appearance and habits are illustrated by watercolor restorations, plaster models and descriptive labels. The arrangement of the specimens is intended to show the history or evolution of different races of animals, chiefly in North America.
In the first right-hand alcove is the largest and finest series of fossil skeletons, illustrating the Evolution of the Horse,19 possessed by any museum. Beginning with the earliest known ancestor of the horse, Eohippus, three hands (twelve inches) high, with its four complete toes on each fore foot and three on each hind foot, the successive stages of development or types of gradual elevation are represented by specimens of Orohippus, four hands high, Mesohippos, five hands high, Merychippus, nine hands high, Hippurion, ten hands high, and Equus scotti, the original North American horse, fourteen hands high. Although the remains of these fossil species of horse are abundant in North America in the latest geological formations, they all became extinct in the New World long before the discovery of America by the Spaniards. There are no traces of the horse in the Aztec history of America or in the knowledge of any of the South American peoples or even in the myths of the American Indian.
To typify the conquest of the horse by man, a skeleton of each, mounted in an erect position, is in a near-by case. The entire series is supplemented by excellent plaster restorations and water-color sketches.

Across the hall from the horse exhibit is a series of specimens showing the Evolution of the Camel, Deer and other cloven-footed animals. Next to the horses, the camels furnish the most striking series illustrating the evolution of a race of animals. The oldest known had four toes on each foot (probably, like other races, descended from a five-toed ancestor as yet undiscovered). In each successive formation, the race increased in size and gradually lost the side toes, consolidating the middle pair into a "cannon-bone." An interesting exhibit is the large block containing five skeletons of a small extinct camel, found in a quarry near Agate, Nebraska.
Next are the giant pigs, or Elotheres, and the mounted skeleton of a pigmy hippopotamus. Directly opposite will be found the Rhinoceroses, abundant in North America in former geological ages, represented by six complete skeletons and a large number of skulls of living and extinct kinds from North America, Europe, Asia and Africa. Adjacent are skeletons of Titanotheres, extinct gigantic animals somewhat resembling the rhinoceros in general form, found in the Oligocene formations of North America. The most recent, or final, stage of evolution of these animals is represented in the mounted skeleton of a specimen found in South Dakota, fourteen feet long, eight feet high and four feet broad. In the end wall case is a series of skulls, showing the stages of evolution, and plaster restorations of the heads of different genera are on the wall nearby.

The remaining alcove sections on the opposite side of the hall contain early Tertiary ancestors of the dogs, cats and other small mammals such as the rodents, marsupials and insectivores, the lemurs and monkeys, concluding with the exhibit of Uintatheres, extinct horned animals about the size of a rhinoceros, found fossil in the Eocene deposits of western United States.

In the center of this hall of the
American Museum of Natural History are especially interesting groups and specimens including the Asphalt Group, from Rancho La Brea, California, which will well repay attention. Other skeletons and skulls from this remarkable fossil deposit are shown in their appropriate places in the hall.


Go To Next Page



Back To Previous Page