Vertebrate Zoology Collections Overview

Ichthyology (fishes) collection is the largest in the department with about 685,000 catalogued specimens in over 35,000 lots and representing more than 2000 species and 300 families. The majority of the collection is Wisconsin freshwater fishes (29,000 lots), but more than 26 U.S. states and 15 countries are represented.

Herpetology (amphibians and reptiles) currently has about 30,000 specimens, with about 77% of those from North America (especially Wisconsin, Missouri, and Arkansas) and 18% from the American Tropics (Mexico, Central America, South America, West Indies), but species from throughout the world are represented. The amphibians are strong on frogs (36%), and the reptiles on snakes (25%) and lizards (16%).

Ornithology (birds) collection holds about 25,000 specimens (study skins, nests, eggs, and fluid preserved specimens) with most collected between 1877 and 1950. Geographic strengths are the Upper Midwest (especially Wisconsin; 70%), but with decent representation from Africa (8%) and Central America (8%). Taxonomically the collection is strong in perching birds, hawks and vultures, and waterfowl. The collection contains extinct taxa as well, including Passenger Pigeons, Carolina Parakeets, and Ivory-billed Woodpeckers.

Mammalogy (mammals) collection is the smallest in the department with only about 5,000 specimens. Its main strengths are the rodent collections made in Wisconsin and by John Grinnell and John Hornung in California in the early 1900s. Although small in size, the American Society of Mammalogists concluded in a 1999 survey that “the collection, with its strong regional focus and historic representations of rare species, is of considerable scientific value to the research community.”

Collectors represented in the bird and mammal holdings include Owen J. Gromme, Carl E. Akeley, John L. Diedrich, Ned Hollister, Ludig Kumlein, Thure Kumlein, B.F. Goss, Herbert L. Stoddard, and Henry L. Ward.