Our permanent paleontology collection currently consists of over 40,000 catalogued specimens. They document the taxonomic diversity and relative abundance of mostly extinct species from a block of geologic time that is referred to as the Miocene epoch. The majority of the fossils in our collection range in age from 8-18 million years old, and many of these are unique and irreplaceable (including Type specimens, i.e., the individual fossil on which a species name is based). However, the fastest growing component of our collection consists of fossils from local but older strata (from the Oligocene, Eocene, and the Paleocene epochs).
We do not collect fossils simply for the sake of having a collection. Our collections are dynamic research tools that are used and continue to grow. Our primary motivating objective is to document the diversity and relative abundance of species that inhabited Maryland during the Miocene epoch. By doing so, we are able to answer questions about how life has changed in this area over geologic time. We encourage the use of our collections by geologists and paleontologists to answer questions about life here 8-18 million years ago. One of the remarkable consequences of learning about life during the Miocene is that it did not take place in isolation from what was happening elsewhere in the world at that time. It was both a consequence of what had happened before and strongly influenced what has happened on Earth since then.
We also house a large and growing modern comparative osteology collection (i.e., a collection of modern animal skeletons). This reference collection allows us to more quickly and accurately identify the partial or isolated bones that are recovered along the Chesapeake Bay (from Calvert Cliffs) and from the eroding bluffs along its tributaries.
CMM is currently the only institution in the State of Maryland that is actively preserving this natural heritage that would otherwise be lost to erosion.