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Arachnida (non-spider) & Myriapoda

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The AMNH has the second-largest collection of scorpions, and the largest collection of minor arachnid orders in North America. The myriapod collections are also among the largest in North America. The collections include a worldwide representation of arachnid and myriapod taxa, with a strong emphasis on material from North America and elsewhere in the New World. The majority of specimens are preserved in ethanol, although large collections of slide-mounted Acari and pseudoscorpions are also represented. A small quantity of unsorted dried material, mostly from South America, is being rehydrated and transferred to ethanol. Collections are continually being augmented with new material collected by AMNH staff, or acquired as donations or purchases.

Scorpions comprise the second largest component of the AMNH arachnid and myriapod collections, after spiders. Currently comprising over 30,000 specimen-lots, including several hundred type specimens, the AMNH has the fourth-largest scorpion collection in the world, including a vast array of New and Old World taxa. Several thousand specimens from South America, Africa and Southeast Asia, including numerous undescribed species, remain to be sorted and identified, and the collection continues to be increased as a result of active field projects. Particular strengths of the collections are in New World, and especially North American families. The AMNH has one of the two largest collections of vaejovid scorpions in the world (the California Academy of Sciences has the other). It incorporates the Oscar F. Francke collection, rich in vaejovid and iurid material from Mexico and the southwestern U.S.A., and containing many large series collected with U.V. light detection, but also containing material from elsewhere in the world. It also incorporates the Willis J. Gertsch collection, containing a significant amount of material from Mexico and the southwestern U.S.A. Recent acquisition of the Alexis Harington collection (ca. 10,000 specimens) vastly expanded the holdings of African material. Southern African taxa are particularly well represented in this collection, which comprises a more representative sample than most southern African collections. All families and genera, and most species of southern African scorpions are represented; including many rare or seldom collected species. Most species are represented by series from multiple localities, many representing new records and/or range extensions. In addition, there are reasonable holdings of extralimital African taxa, and taxa from North and South America, Europe, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, Australia and Oceania.

As part of Dr Prendini's research on the molecular systematics of scorpions, a synoptic collection of tissues from scorpions is steadily being deposited in the Ambrose Monell Collection for Molecular and Microbial Research of the AMNH. Developed through fieldwork and donations or exchanges with colleagues around the world, this collection is continually augmented and includes sizable holdings of tissue samples from Amblypygi, Schizomida, Solifugae and Thelyphonida and other arachnid and myriapod taxa, in addition to Scorpiones. Samples are housed at liquid nitrogen temperatures (-150°C) to maintain the highest quality and maximum stability of biomolecules indefinitely.

In 2002, the arachnid and myriapod collections were transferred to a new storage facility within the AMNH, the Starr Natural Sciences building (NSB). In the NSB, specimens are stored in state-of-the-art cabinetry and a climate-controlled environment to ensure their longevity. A complete overhaul of the collection, whereby all old, unstandardized bottles and vials, many with bake-lite closures or rubber stoppers, are replaced by new glass jars of standardized volumes with polyethylene closures and polypropylene-foam liners, has been underway for several years. The entire collection is also gradually being databased, and archival data labels newly printed for each specimen-lot.

Curator-in-Charge: Dr. Lorenzo Prendini

Collections Assistant: Pamela Horsley

American Museum of Natural History

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