PBDB Data Service 1.2 v1 > Fossil collections


The URL paths documented in this section provide access to information about the fossil collections represented in the Paleobiology Database. In the context of our database, a "fossil collection" represents a set of fossil occurrences co-located geographically and temporally. In order to belong to a single collection the occurrences must have been collected deliberately as a group, though not necessarily all on the same occasion.

Using the paths described here, you may query for collections by a variety of criteria including: name, location, age, enterer, and taxonomic identification. Examples are given below.

Geographic clustering

In order to facilitate efficient mapping of the worldwide fossil record as represented in this database, we have added to the database several levels of geographic clusters. Each cluster represents the aggregate of all the fossil collections in a particular area of the globe, and can be used to generate maps at low resolutions.

You can query for these clusters using the summary URL path as indicated below. The config URL path may be used to get information about the levels of clustering defined in the database.


The following URL paths are available:

Single fossil collection

This operation returns information about a single collection, selected by its identifier. For example:

Lists of fossil collections

This operation returns information about multiple collections, selected according to the parameters you provide. You can select collections by taxonomy, geography, age, environment, and many other criteria. If you select the csv or tsv output format, the output you get will be very similar to the Classic collection download. For example:

Geographic summary of fossil collections

This operation is essentially the same as occs/geosum. It summarizes the selected set of collections by mapping them onto geographic clusters. Its purpose is to provide for the generation of maps displaying the geographic distribution of fossil collections. You can specify any of the parameters that are available for the occs/list operation described above. Multiple levels of geographic resolution are available. For example:

Bibliographic references for fossil collections

This operation returns information about the bibliographic references associated with fossil collections. You can pass identical filtering parameters to colls/byref and colls/refs, which will give you both a list of collections and a list of the associated references. However, the operation occs/refs is much more flexible. It allows you to retrieve taxonomy and specimen references as well as collection and occurrence references, and can report the number of taxa, occurrences, specimens, etc. entered from each record. If you are looking for any of this information, you should use that operation instead. For example:

Collections grouped by bibliographic reference

This operation returns information about multiple collections, selected with respect to some combination of the attributes of the collections and the attributes of the bibliographic reference(s) from which they were entered. You can use this operation in conjunction with colls/refs to show, for each selected reference, all of the collections entered from it, or all which meet certain criteria. For example:


This service is provided by the Paleobiology Database, hosted by the Department of Geoscience at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

If you have questions about this data service, or wish to report a bug, please contact the database administrator at admin@paleobiodb.org