Cretaceous antlers forming at geology site

Research and Collections

Research Projects

The Perot Museum’s research team currently focuses on understanding Cretaceous ecosystems of Texas and the southwestern United States, both on the land and in the sea. We have active projects investigating fossil animals, plants, and their environments around the ancient Cretaceous Western Interior Seaway.

Cretaceous Ecosystems current areas of focus
Mosasaur teeth on view in Paleo Lab

Marine reptiles of North-Central Texas

The rocks beneath most of North Texas were formed by the rise and fall of the ancient Western Interior Seaway that split North America in two for much of the Cretaceous Period. A great diversity of marine life is preserved as fossils in these rocks, providing Perot Museum researchers glimpses of life and death in the Cretaceous seas of North Texas.

Cretaceous sauropod rib in North Texas creek bed

Trinity Group terrestrial ecosystems

Dinosaurs once roamed North Texas alongside ancient crocodilians, turtles, fish, amphibians, pterosaurs, and mammals. Perot Museum researchers investigate fossil sites across the region that document the diversity and evolution of the animals that called Texas home 115-110 million years ago.

Cretaceous leaf fossil

Woodbine Group terrestrial ecosystems

96 million years ago, North Texas was the western shoreline of Appalachia, the half of North America east of the ancient Western Interior Seaway. The plants and animal fossils preserved in the sediments formed along that shoreline are subjects of intense study by Perot Museum researchers.

Dr. Contreras and Dr. Tykoski at Big Bend National Park

Big Bend Late Cretaceous animals and plants

Rocks in and around Big Bend National Park preserve the fossils of plants and animals dating from before and after the end-Cretaceous mass extinction event. Museum researchers study these fossils to understand the ancient West Texas ecosystems leading up to the end of the Cretaceous Period.

Cretaceous fern and flowering plant

New Mexico terrestrial environments and plants

At a time when most of Texas was under the waves of the Western Interior Seaway, the western shoreline of the seaway was in Central and Western New Mexico. Museum scientists are working on the land plants buried and preserved here by rivers, streams, and ash from volcanic eruptions at the time marine reptiles swam in the seas covering North Texas.

Early through late cretaceous

Early Cretaceous, North Texas

Mid-Cretaceous, north Texas

Late Cretaceous, West Texas

Late Cretaceous

In addition to the Museum’s own researchers, we support studies by our Research Affiliates in areas that use and build on the strengths of our collections and regional deep-time history, such as Cretaceous Alaska and Permian Texas ecosystems.

Alaskan duckbill dino teeth A
Permian Walchian conifer B
  • Alaskan duckbill dinosaur teeth

  • Permian Walchian conifer after prep