William Costello, of Wairaki School, asks :-

What country has the most fossils?

David MacKinnon, a geologist at the University of Canterbury, responded.

By far the largest collections of fossils are held in museums and universities in the United States.

The main kinds of fossils found are invertebrates (for example shells, corals, and trilobites), vertebrates (fish, reptiles, including dinosaurs, and mammals), and plants. The largest number of fossils to be found in one building are housed in the National Museum of Natural History (part of the Smithsonian Institution), in Washington D.C., not far from the White House - the home of the US President. This museum has tens of millions of invertebrates, several hundred thousand vertebrates, and tens of thousands of plant fossils. Although most of the collections are in storage and accessible only to research scientists, the public galleries of the National Museum of Natural History have some of the very best fossil specimens on permanent display. Elsewhere in the United States, other museums house some 15 million invertebrate fossils, 5 million vertebrates and half a million plants.

In New Zealand there are about three and a half million fossil specimens in collections, most of these stored in the Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences in Lower Hutt, but most museums have fossils on public display. Of course the figures given above refer only to those fossils already found and placed in collections. All over the world countless more fossils await discovery by anyone, including school students, keen enough to search for them!