Idaho Virtualization Laboratory

Virtual Paleontology of Idaho

The Vertebrate Paleontology Division of the Idaho Museum of Natural History has a number of world class collections that we will be digitizing over the next few years. Below is a selection of items that we have chosen as exapmles of what will be coming in the future.

Click here to see the online Virtual Paleontology of Idaho


The Earth Science Division curates the world's largest collection of Helicoprion specimens. A large spiral of teeth is typically all that remains of an ancient fish called Helicoprion, its form and ancestry masked by a poor fossil record. New research led by IMNH curator Dr. Leif Tapanila provides new interpretations of this remarkable fossil. 

CT scans of a unique specimen from Idaho show the spiral of teeth within the jaws of the animal, giving new information on what the animal looked like, how it ate, and showing that it was more closely related to modern ratfish than to sharks. Artistic reconstructions by Ray Troll give life to this ancient creature that swam the world's oceans more than 270 million years ago.

More than a century of research on fossil spiral-tooth whorls has produced many imaginative scenarios for what Helicoprion looked like. The new reconstruction (at the bottom of the image) is based on a fossil that preserves the jaws in context with the whorl. Original artwork by Ray Troll.
The new reconstruction of Helicoprion. An arc of a dozen or so teeth are exposed in the lower jaw, but hidden below the gum line, another 100 teeth from its youth are concealed in a spiral. Original artwork by Ray Troll.
Click on the image above for a 3D PDF of the reconstruction

Surface scans of Helicoprion specimens: Click on the image to view a 3D PDF

11905 22065 30900
11905 22065 30900
36509 36510 37899
36509 36510 37899


Bison latifrons

The Ice Age giant, Bison latifrons, was one of the most majestic animals to roam the plains of Idaho. Several complete skulls with large horns were preserved at the American Falls Reservoir north of Pocatello, Idaho. 
Click on the Image above for a 3D PDF of the Skull of a Bison latifrons courtsey of the Bureau of Reclimation




Fossil Fish 

The Green River Formation in western Wyoming records life in and around lakes nearly 40 million years ago. Fossil fish are the most abundant and iconic animals from these world-famous deposits.
36285 408G-36288 2254-45924
2-36285 2-36288 (408-G) 2254-45924
441-9815 408H-36283  
IMNH 441-9815-pdf 36283 408-H  
Click on the images above to view 3D PDFs of the items