Skip to Content

About the Collection

The Division of Reptiles and Amphibians maintains a collection that is worldwide in scope. Presently, (as of annual report 2009-10) the research collections contain 195,469 (through catalogue number UMMZ 240,000) catalogued lots representing 431,316 individual specimens. These represent 1,065 genera and 5,295 species of which 13,656 specimens are skeletons. 99.9% of specimens are identified to genus, and 96% of specimens are identified to species. This includes 472 Primary Type specimens (representing 424 taxa) and 5,456 Paratypes (representing 787 taxa). The average growth over the last ten years has been nearly 1500 specimens per year. The auxiliary research collections contain 2,145 radiographs, 7,288 kodachrome slides, and 8,769 frozen tissue samples. All of the above mentioned collections have been inventoried and the data associated with them have been entered into computer databases in Foxpro. A collection of 37 audio tapes containing hundreds of recordings of anuran vocalizations has been digitized and can now be accessed via the Division's webpage, as well as catalogue records and digital images of all primary type specimens. Additionally, the Division maintains a teaching collection primarily used by the Herpetology Class and a Demonstration/Exchange Collection used for dissection and class demonstration.

The Building

The Alexander Ruthven Museums Building, where the collections are now housed, was first occupied in 1928. The Division of Reptiles and Amphibians underwent a major renovation and reorganization in the early 1990's. The project was completed in 1995, and included a new laboratory facility located in room 2032. Our storage ranges were also renovated which required moving the collections three times to accommodate ongoing construction. The third and final move back into the renovated rooms; Amphibians and Primary Types (room 2021), Reptiles (excluding turtles) and skeletal collection (excluding turtles and crocodilians) (room 2016) enabled us to reorganize our collections, and to recognize many taxonomic changes that were previously avoided due to the large scale of the projects. The rooms (by number) allocated to the Division of Reptiles and Amphibians are as follows:

18 (and 18a) - Turtles: (alcoholic and skeletal), Crocodilians: (skins and skeletons), Squamate skins, Microslide Collection, Teaching Collections, Exchange Collections, X-ray machine (824 sq. ft.)

27 - General Storage: including UMMZ Publications (Miscellaneous Publications and Occasional Papers from our Division) (285 sq.ft.) 47 - General Freezer Storage including Herpetology Tissue Collection

2015 - Herpetology Divisional Library: University Library books and journals, Divisional books, journals, and gazetteers, Divisional reprint collection, Kodachrome Slide collection, Map collection (504 sq. ft.)

20l6 - Snake, Lizard, Crocodilian, and Rhynchocephalian: (alcoholic),Skeletal Collection (exclusive of Turtles and Crocodilians) including microslides, Radiographs, Specimens Pending Publication Security Cabinet, Alcohol drum and carboy flammable storage cabinet (3636 sq. ft.)

2017 - 2019 - Dr. Ronald A. Nussbaum - office and lab (504 sq. ft.)

2021 - Caecilian, Salamander, and Frog (alcoholic), Amphibian larva (10% buffered formalin), Primary Type security storage cabinets (1512 sq. ft.)

2032 - Preparation Room and Laboratory: Collections Manager, Divisional Files and Accessions, Field Notebooks, loan transaction files, catalogues, old cross indices, audio tape collection, Visitor Space (591 sq. ft.)

2033 - Dr. Arnold G. Kluge - office and lab (504 sq. ft.)

2037 - Divisional Office: Secretary, (Divisional reprints stored in wall cabinets across the hall) (252 sq. ft.)

4076 - Osteological Preparator and dermestid beetle colony (291 sq. ft.) - (for general museum use -administered by Mammal Division)

4080 - Amphibian live room (217 sq. ft.)

4081 - Reptile live room (217 sq. ft.)

4085 - Reptile live room (217 sq. ft.) - (special key required)

Organization and Storage

The main research collections, consisting of fluid preserved specimens (amphibians in 65% ethanol and reptiles in 75% ethanol) and skeletons are arranged alphabetically by taxonomy. A locator key with a list of genera and their corresponding shelf , tank, or cabinet number is placed at the head of each of the storage room (range). Bottles on the shelves are further organized by geography for each species, alphabetically by countries, by states for countries in North America, and by counties for Michigan species. This is basically the arrangement for the skeletal collection and the amphibian eggs/larva collection (in 10% buffered formalin). Primary Types are arranged alphabetically by species (original nomenclature) within the orders Gymnophiona, Caudata, Anura, Sauria, Ophidia, and Testudinata. The auxiliary research collections are arranged as follows. Kodachrome slides are organized alphabetically by taxonomy and geography, then numerically. Radiographs are arranged numerically by plate number. Tissues are arranged by field number and ordered into numbered cells of numbered tissue boxes. The teaching and exchange collections are arranged taxonomically. Long term storage of all fluid collections, radiographs, and kodachromes should avoid any light, excessive heat, and excessive humidity, thus the ranges need to be kept dark, cool, and dry. The tissue collections are stored at -80 degrees F in ultracold freezers. The room for the freezers needs to be kept cool to prevent them from over heating.

Noteworthy Curatorial Projects in recent history

Main collection: complete inventory, consolidation, reorganization, taxonomic update, new labels, alcohol, and gaskets:
Amphibians completed in 1978 Reptiles completed in 1979

Skeleton Collection: reorganization and computerization 1978-1979 Complete Inventory and reorganization completed 1995 Expansion and reorganization again 2002-2003

Radiograph collection: organized and computerized 1978-1979

Kodachrome collection: organized and computerized 1978-1979

Tissue collection: computerization, complete inventory, reorganization 2002

Renovation of amphibian and lizard/snake range (and new lab) 1994-1995 moving collections and taxonomic updates and reorganize (especially amphibians) physical improvements for storage

Tank specimens: reorganization, complete inventory Frogs, Lizards, Snakes- 1998-1999

Main Catalogue data entered 1975 - 1978 by Kerri Hyrns, keypunch operator
NSF sponsored workshop on Electronic Data Processing (EDP) in Taxir December, 1977
Standard List of Geographic Names (Countries, States, Counties, Islands) - accepted by Taxir: 1978
Lost/missing specimens list 1981
Data migration to microcomputer in Foxpro 1995
Maps of Michigan Species (GPS coordinates assigned to over 21,000 records) 2000
proof reading of all localities and geography by countries 2001
exchanged specimens (sent and received) documented and cross referenced 2001

Loan agreement 1982

Type lists published
amphibians 1983
reptiles 1984

Curation manual 1985

Divisional Policies 1987

Library relocation 1986

reprint collection data entry into procite (and transferred to Endnote) (started in 1999)

map collection consolidated in map cases 1978