Vertebrate Zoology

The Division of Vertebrate Zoology focuses on animals with backbones – fish, amphibians, reptiles, mammals, and birds.

As a result of a historical legacy of large collecting expeditions to other continents during the last century (e.g., the AMNH Congo Expeditions, Archbold Expeditions to New Guinea, etc.) and ongoing field research expeditions by current staff and students, VZ houses one of the greatest collections of vertebrate specimens in the world. Over 3.5 million specimens representing over 35,000 species are archived in our collections, ranging from tiny fish and lizards to ostriches, elephants, and even whales. VZ collections also contain such rare and extinct species such as coelocanths, dodos, and Tasmanian wolves. Most of our specimens are traditional preparations (skins, skulls, skeletons, alcohol-preserved specimens) but we also maintain a growing collection of tissue samples for DNA studies (34,500). Staff and students in the Division of Vertebrate Zoology are engaged in research in diverse areas including systematics, phylogenetics, evolutionary morphology, population genetics, faunal inventory, biogeography, distribution modeling, conservation, host-parasite interactions, and extinctions.

The Division of Vertebrate Zoology is organized into four departments: Herpetology (amphibians and reptiles), Ichthyology (fishes), Mammalogy (mammals), and Ornithology (birds). For more information on those areas, including collections information and instructions for researchers wishing to visit or borrow specimens from the collections, please see the appropriate departmental web site.

The Division of Vertebrate Zoology maintains an online searchable database of collections records; to access it click here.

The Division of Vertebrate Zoology practices integrated pest management and hosts the annual meeting of the Integrated Pest Management Working Group, a group of collection managers, conservators, entomologists and other professionals interested in issues surrounding the implementation of integrated pest management in museums and other collection-holding institutions.