The National Collection (USNM) of Amphibians and Reptiles in the Department of Vertebrate Zoology at the National Museum of Natural History is the largest and one of the most important herpetological collections in the world with over 590,000 catalog records and over 828,000 specimens. The National Collection of Amphibians and Reptiles is growing rapidly, having increased 300% over the past ca. 50 years (190,000 specimen records in 1970 to over 590,000 specimen records in 2018). Nearly all of the catalog records are digitized.
The collection is global in scope and has extensive taxonomic coverage with strong representation of North, Central, and South American taxa.
The Division is a very important repository for type specimens, which serve as reference points for scientific names. Currently, we have over 14,100 type records on our data base; over 2,600 of these are holotypes and syntypes. Because many of the early types were cataloged as "lots," the total number of primary types under the care of the Division is nearly 3,000.
Specimen preparations of several types are maintained in the USNM herpetological collection. While most of the specimens are stored in 70% ethanol, the collection also contains dry skeletal specimens, cleared and stained skeletal preparations stored in glycerin, specimens stored in formalin (mostly amphibian larvae), and histological preparations mounted on microscope slides. A single cataloged specimen may be a composite of more than one preparation type.
The Division of Amphibians and Reptiles maintains genetic resources (tissues, DNA extracts, and microbiome samples) from its research collections for scientific and educational. Geographically, the tissue collection is strongest for the New World; however, we also have important collections from Madagascar, Central Africa, Asia, and the Pacific.
Document and Media Archives
The Division also manages a variety of materials integral to documentation and use of the research collections including field notes and maps, original illustrations, prints, sonograms, radiographs, histological slides, and reprints.