Skip to Main Content
Idaho State University home

Museum in the News

Dr. Leif Tapanila, IMNH director, is a co-author on a scientific paper published this summer in the Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History that describes the Trans-Saharan Seaway in Mali, Africa, and the strange creatures that existed there 50 to 100 million years ago.

Read Article

Of the seven new species of prehistoric Idaho creatures Idaho State University Department of Geosciences affiliate researcher and Museum Affiliate Curator Dr. L.J. Krumenacker was able to help document and name in scientific journals that were published this month, his favorite is Cimolodon akersteni, named after his former advisor and paleontological mentor Bill Akersten, who retired from ISU about a decade ago.

Read Article


IMNH Anthropology Curator, Dr. Andy Speer, publishes The Seagull Bay site—Clovis technology from American Falls on the Eastern Snake River Plain. “We are interested in the animals that died off right when this Clovis culture was at its peak,” Speer said. “We ask questions like ‘did these people kill all these animals, was it climate change or was it both?’ In North America alone, 90 genera of animals over 100 pounds died off during the Clovis period at the close of the Pleistocene 11,700 years ago,” Speer said.

Read Article

Idaho Museum of Natural History’s buzzsaw sharks featured story in December National Geographic Magazine

Learn More

Museum Making History with 3D Printed PPE

Brandon Peecook

Dr. Brandon Peecook, Vertebrate Paleontology, is one of 30 co-authors on a recent publication with Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “I was part of a research team conducting a meta-analysis on the disproportionate benefits of active learning – as opposed to lecturing – techniques in the classroom to student populations underrepresented in STEM fields,” Peecook said. “We found significant results for grade improvement and retention in the discipline for key student groups. We're expecting this data to help drive large movements in pedagogy across the country.”

Read Article


Dr. Leif Tapanila, IMNH director, recently published a paper with Benjamin Rendall that documents the remarkable recovery of marine life after the 360 million-year-old Alamo Impact near Las Vegas, NV. The Museum holds all the fossils collected on this project that took over a decade of field mapping and collecting by Tapanila's lab.

3D printed mask with filter

3D printers to produce coronavirus PPE

“I think we will really be able to help the needs of the university and our region,” said Leif Tapanila, director of the Idaho Museum of Natural History, who is coordinating ISU’s campus-wide effort. “These kinds of efforts are widespread across the state and country, to make models for 3D printers, find the plastic supply and answer the call to meet the needs for personal protection equipment.”

Read more about how the Museum is leading the way on 3D printing PPE 

Dire wolves were the last of an ancient New World canid lineage

An artists depiction of what dire wolf hunting would have looked like

Paleoart by Mauricio Anton

New research published Jan. 14, 2021 turns our idea of the iconic dire wolves of the ice age upside down. Researchers, including our very own Affiliate Curator Dr. Mary Thompson, sequenced five genomes from dire wolf fossils between 50,000 and 13,000 years old (two from American Falls, and permanently in IMNH collections and one is currently on display in Skulls). The surprising results showed that dire wolves belonged to a much older lineage of dogs. Dire wolves evolved in the Americas and had no close kinship with gray wolves, which came over from Eurasia more recently. The strong resemblance between the two, the researchers say, is a case of convergent evolution, whereby different species develop similar adaptations—or even appearances—thanks to a similar way of life.

Expanding on incremental dentin methodology to investigate childhood and infant

Satellite of Taumako Island

Check out a new publication co-authored by our Collections Manager, Amy Commendador. This study examines prehistoric childhood diet in the Solomon Islands using stable isotope ratio analyses of human teeth. Instead of traditional bulk sampling, they expand on a new method that examines each tooth incrementally, allowing for explorations of changes in diet while the tooth is forming. In their case, they were able to track diet from 0 to 10 years of age. Overall, the data from their pilot study suggests that 1) in contrast to findings for adults, there were no differences in childhood diet based on social status; 2) children who died in childhood had lower nitrogen isotope values than those that survived to adulthood, suggesting a link between diet, nutritional health and morbidity; and 3) males and females may have had different dietary patterns throughout their lives. Though this was a pilot study it highlights the potential of this type of higher resolution analysis for insights into childhood diet. 

These Prehistoric Sharks Had Jaws Shaped Like Circular Saws and Sawtoothed Sciss

An illustration of the ancient shark Edestus heinrichi preying on a fish. Many ancient sharks had different jaws than modern sharks.

By Riley Black


APRIL 2, 2021

Imagine a great white shark with a set of sawtoothed scissors for a mouth. Ridiculous as that image might seem at first, such a creature once swam through Earth’s seas. More than 300 million years ago, Edestus giganteous bit through its fishy prey with a set of thin, blade like jaws with each serrated tooth set in line right behind the last. There’s nothing quite like this fish alive today, and paleontologists have only recently been able to piece together the relevant clues to understand Edestus and other strange shark relatives from the deep past.

Read Full Article

Unlocking the Secrets of the Dire Wolf

ISU researcher Mary Thompson collaborated with scientists from around the world to learn more about the dire wolf, the highly intelligent but terrifying beasts from Game of Thrones.

Newly identified saber-toothed cat is one of largest in history

An artist’s depiction of Machairodus lahayishupup eating Hemiauchenia, a camel relative. The image is part of a mural of the Rattlesnake Formation of central Oregon, where fossils of the newly identified species have been found. The mural is exhibited at John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, part of the National Park Service.

IMNH specimens helped to identify a giant saber-toothed cat that lived in North America between 5 million and 9 million years ago, weighing up to 900 pounds and hunting prey that likely weighed 1,000 to 2,000 pounds, scientists reported today in a new study.

A partial tyrannosauroid femur from the mid-Cretaceous Wayan Formation

Tyrannosauroid femur

In a new paper published in the Journal of Paleontology, Dr. L.J. Krumenacker, adjunct professor of geosciences at ISU and affiliate curator at the Idaho Museum of Natural History, and his co-authors share the details of a partial femur of a Tyrannosaurus-like dinosaur. 

“This is the first bone of a tyrannosaur to be found in Idaho and the oldest bone of Cretaceous-age tyrannosaur from North America,” said Krumenacker. “This fossil shows that a variety of tyrannosaurs were present in western North America around 100 million years ago and well before these types of animals became the dominant predators near the end of the age of dinosaurs.”