Want to help the KU Natural History Museum?

Consider adopting a specimen from our collections. Individuals, families, businesses, schools and other organizations can adopt specimens from our biodiversity collections, or adopt them in honor of someone else.

Through our Adopt-a-Specimen program, you will will help us maintain our education programs, exhibits and scientific collections, which work in concert to bring our biodiversity research to the public. You can adopt plants from our herbarium, bees and colorful insects, rare species from our ornithology collections, fish, mammals, snakes, frogs and fossils. You can adopt for one year at the following levels:

  • $75 - Receive a certificate about the specimen and be recognized on our website.
  • $150 - The benefits above, plus receive the rewards of Museum Friends membership at the patron level (a $75 value)
  • $300 - All the benefits above, plus invitations to special events
  • $500 and up - All the benefits above, plus meet a researcher with knowledge of the specimen and tour our collections.

We also invite individuals to consider adopting permanent exhibit specimens from the museum -- including our enormous mosasaurs, Comanche, or the polar bears of the late 1800s displayed in the Panorama. Please contact us to discuss adoption levels for these special specimens at 785.864.2344.

Adopting a specimen in honor of someone else makes a great gift, too. Adopt an endangered whooping crane for the birder you know, an antelope for the race-runner, a vampire bat for the horror fan or a rare orchid for the love of your life.

To adopt a specimen, choose from the list of specimens below, or contact us for more options. Many of these specimens are on display on the sixth floor of the museum. After you have chosen a specimen to adopt, you can give directly through KU Endowment, or call us to make a gift by phone at 785.864.2344. You may also mail your gift to us:

KU Natural History Museum Adopt-a-Specimen program 1345 Jayhawk Blvd., Dyche Hall Lawrence, KS 66045

Thank you for supporting the museum’s collections and exhibits!

Specimens available for adoption now:

Anoplogaster cornuta

Common fangtooth

The front two fangs of the common fangtooth are so large that to close its jaws, the fish has sockets for the teeth in the roof of its mouth.

Chauliodus macouni

Pacific viperfish

In the deep, dark ocean depths, the Pacific viperfish lures prey with light-producing organs on its belly. These organs use chemicals to create bioluminescence.

Anoxypristis cuspidate

Pointed sawfish

The sawfish, a type of ray, uses its long snout to dislodge invertebrates from sediment and stun schooling fishes.

Polyodon spathula

Mississippi paddlefish

A filter-feeder that eats primarily zooplankton, paddlefish can grow to over six feet in length and weigh more than one hundred pounds.

Pteropus poliocephalus

Grey-headed flying fox

Australia’s largest bat, this animal eats pollen and nectar. Unlike smaller bat species, the flying fox navigates using sight and smell instead of radar.

Smilodon californicus

Saber-toothed cat Adopted

Most likely an ambush hunter, this cat was shorter than a modern lion but twice as heavy. When hunting, Smilodon would fatally stab prey in the throat or belly using its curved teeth.

Alligator mississippiensis

American alligator

As an alligator’s teeth wear down, they are replaced. The animal can go through 2,000 to 3,000 teeth in a lifetime.

Moloch horridus

Thorny devil

This Australian lizard feeds exclusively on ants, eating them one at a time at a rate of up to 45 ants a minute.

Caretta caretta

Loggerhead sea turtle

This is the world’s largest hard-shell turtle. Even though they are only two inches long when they hatch, they can grow to up to 350 pounds.

Rhinophrynus dorsalis

Mexican burrowing toad

This mesoamerican frog lives underground, and burrows into termite and ant nests where it feasts on its hosts with a special tongue. It emerges for only 2 weeks a year to breed in temporary ponds; males are propelled backward through the water as they call in what sounds like a human retching. It is related to fossil frogs 65 million years old known from Israel.

Prionocyclus hyatti


Cretaceous ammonite

An extinct relative of the squid and the nautilus, ammonites were named after the Egyptian god Amun who is traditionally depicted wearing curved ram horns.

Asclepias meadii

Mead’s milkweed

More than 70% of the world’s population of this plant is found in Kansas. This specimen was collected by Francis Snow, one of the first faculty members of the University of Kansas.

Protophyllum sternbergii and Aralia quinquepartita

Cretaceous leaves

The earliest leaf fossils date back to 270 million years ago. The large tree leaf is from an early relative of the sycamore. The small leaf is from the ginseng and ivy family. Both are from the Cretaceous era, of 144 to 65 million years ago.

Butterflies, moths, bees and more

The KU Entomological collections include more than 4.7 million specimens. The collection includes a colorful butterflies and moths such as these, an incredible variety of bees, extraordinary tropical insects and more. Ask us if you have one in mind to adopt.

Sturnella magna

Eastern meadowlark

The nests of this bird have a domed roof made from grass and are sometimes build in the hoofprints left by cattle and horses. This specimen has a deformed beak that is longer than those of normal meadowlarks.

Piranga ludoviciana

Western tanager

The red color on the tanager’s face comes from the special pigment rhodoxanthin, which the birds acquire by eating insects.