Museum collections are invaluable scientific and education tools that celebrate the past, define the present and inform the future. Embedded in our cupboards, shelves and freezers is hidden information waiting to be teased out by current and future scientists. Our collections provide opportunities and access for CU students to gain real world experience in preparation for careers essential for solving the challenges of tomorrow. 


In the spring of 2020, like many organizations around the world, the CU Museum of Natural History Boulder was forced to close its doors due to COVID-19. Each and every week, for over a year, the museum highlighted the history of a single catalogued item from our vast collection of more than 5 million objects. Each Wonder of the Week, or WoW blog posted on a Wednesday—offered something interesting and new to anticipate. To view the collection through a post-lockdown lens, explore the following posts.



Fossilized coral in cone shape with small circle surface pattern

Rugose Coral

June 30, 2021

This fossil is a rugose coral, found in Jeffersonville, Indiana and collected by R.D. George in the early 1900s. The numerous concentric rings detailing the fossil’s surface are not representative of the true external surface the rugose coral once exhibited in life, but instead are a form of Chalcedony called Beekite.

cream colored shiny cowrie shell

Tiger Cowrie

June 23, 2021

The tiger cowrie is a species of large sea snail that lives in warm reefs throughout the Indo-Pacific Ocean. These snails can be found from off the eastern coast of Africa all the way to the Hawaiian Islands.

Canyon Lizard specimen looking from above

Ballinger’s Canyon Lizard

June 16, 2021

Ballinger’s canyon lizard is a subspecies of spiny lizard whose range extends from Southwestern Texas into Northern Mexico.

blue winged grasshopper

Blue-winged Grasshopper

June 9, 2021

Saussure’s Blue-winged Grasshopper (Leprus intermedius) is one of several species of grasshopper exhibiting blue wings, but this species can be further distinguished from those similar by its strong blue pigmentation on the underside of the thorax and abdomen. Named after the accomplished Swiss entomologist and taxonomist Henri de Saussure, these...

clam worm thumbnail

Clam worm

June 2, 2021

These strange worms are a type of polychaete worm that belong to the family Nereididae commonly known as clam worms. Polycheate worms are set apart from other marine worms by bristles (known as cheate) on their parapodia that they use to move and burrow into the sand. Parapodium is a Greek word which translates into para  beside  + podia  feet.  During mating cycles, which...

passenger pigeon

Passenger Pigeon

May 26, 2021

The passenger pigeon ( Ectopistes migratorius ) once migrated in flocks of 3 to 5 billion, numbers great enough to black out the sky, but by 1914, the last of its kind, named “Martha,” passed away at the Cincinnati Zoo. Martha had been the last passenger pigeon alive in captivity, while the last known wild...

white-lined sphinx

White-lined Sphinx 

May 19, 2021

The White-lined Sphinx is an abundant North American pollinating moth found from coast to coast. These insects are closely associated with plants: as adults they drink nectar from flowers and the caterpillars feed on leaves of many different hostplants. A hostplant is where an adult moth or butterfly lays their...



May 12, 2021

Humans have found many uses for this material once the organism decomposes. Cuttlebones are often used as calcium supplements for pets. Parrots, tortoises, parakeets, and even hermit crabs benefit from added calcium in their diet; egg-laying animals often need extra calcium to replenish their reserves of the nutrient, and the...

sand wasp

Sand Wasp

May 5, 2021

Ammophila , also known as Thread-Waisted Sand Wasps, is a genus of medium-sized wasps that exhibit peculiar sand-nesting behavior. Like many solitary wasps, Ammophila dig nests with individual cells in which to oviposit their eggs. What is unique about this genus is that egg-laying females are markedly good mothers, provisioning...

pike characin

Pike characin

April 28, 2021

Pike characins, Acestrorhynchus microlepis , are one of many characid species also referred to as freshwater barracudas. This specimen was collected by Max M. Ellis in 1910 while he led an exploration into the regions of the headwaters of the Amazon River under the financing of Indiana philanthropist Jake Gimbel...