Our Collections

The AMNH collection of amphibians and reptiles ranks among the world's largest herpetological collections. The separately catalogued collections of amphibians and reptiles total more than 351,000 specimens.

The geographical scope of the Herpetology collection is global. Aside from the United States, areas especially well represented include Mexico, Papua New Guinea, Colombia, China, Peru, and Cuba, each represented by over 10,000 specimens. The collection also covers a very broad taxonomic range. All living orders and families of the Amphibia and Reptilia are represented, as are most of the genera.

While most of the specimens in the collection are fixed and stored in ethanol, the department has a number of special specimen collections:

  • Type Collection: about 682 primary types (holotype, lectotype, syntype, etc)
  • Tissue Collection: over 7500 tissue samples, mostly with vouchers in the ethanol collection
  • Maximillian Collection: about 487 specimens from the early 19th-century explorer/naturalist Prince Maximilian von Wied-Neuwied
  • Larval Collection: Anuran larvae are cataloged as lots and predominately stored in formalin
  • Skeleton and Cleared & Stained Collections: about 8900 specimens are dry skeletons or skins, and about 1700 are cleared and stained skeletons
  • Synoptic Hemipenis Collection: over 600 hemipenes, primarily snakes
  • Synoptic Maxilla Collection: maxillae of over 300 reptiles, primarily snakes
  • Anatomical Collection: uncataloged specimens available for informal examination and/or dissections
  • Chromosome, Histological and SEM Preparations: about 6000 specimens

The department also houses several non-specimen collections:

  • Tape recordings: recordings of vocalizations, predominantly frogs—approximately 800 are vouchered by specimens in the collection (of 2200 total)
  • Photo archives: several thousand photographs, predominantly of vouchered specimens
  • Department archives: field notes, correspondence, etc.
  • Department library: books, journals, and reprints for use of staff and visitors; these cannot be removed from the department