Collections at KU herpetology are among the largest research collections of reptile and amphibian specimens in the world. Our actively growing collections are accessed thousands of times every year through on-line searches, loans and on-site visits.

Collection Highlights

  • We house one of the largest herpetology collections in the world (340,000 specimens representing more than 5000 species from 156 countries).
  • Our specimen records are accessed more than any other collection in the HerpNet2 database ( 15 million+ records served).
  • In a typical year, we process loans for approximately 15,000 specimens.
  • We maintain a large and actively growing tissue collection of more than 10,000 samples.
  • We house the world’s largest collection of neotropical amphibian and reptile specimens (200,000+) as well as substantial numbers of Nearctic (80,000+) and Asian (20,000+) specimens.
  • Our collections from Kansas are the state’s largest (20,000+).
  • Our type collection includes nearly 400 primary types, mostly amphibians.
  • We maintain 5000 cleared-and-stained osteological preparations and nearly 5000 dried skeletons, in addition to sectioned histological preparations.
  • We have assembled one of the world’s largest collections of amphibian larvae (6000+ lots).
  • Our digital archive includes more than 12,000 digital images and more than 1500 acoustic recordings.

Accessing the Collection

The KU herpetological collections are a widely used global resource. Our goal is to provide as much access to the collections as possible. Accessing the collection generally occurs in one of three ways. (1) Free on-line access to our collections database, including specimen records and associated locality data, is available via HerpNet2/VertNet or the Specify database portal. This approach usually is the first step for collections-based projects or queries. Each of these databases is updated regularly with new information from our in-house Specify 6 database. Specific database questions may also be sent via e-mail to our curatorial staff. (2) Loans of physical specimens to individual researchers. See our loan policy for further details. (3) Visits by qualified professional and student researchers. We offer working space for scholars visiting for anywhere from a few days to a year or more. Please contact us via e-mail to learn more about opportunities for collections visits.

Dewar for storage of cryogenic samples.

History of Our Collection

The KU herpetological collection was founded in early in the 20th century and reached more than 28,000 specimens by mid-century, most from the United States. With the arrival of curator William E. Duellman in the late 1950s, and later, curator Linda Trueb, the collection size has increased by more than an order of magnitude and is now the fifth largest in the U.S. and the largest collection of neotropical amphibians and reptiles in the world. Duellman, Trueb, and their graduate students contributed collections resulting from intensive sampling efforts in Mexico, Central America, and western South America. Thanks largely to the efforts of Trueb, the KU collections also include extensive osteological and cleared and stained preparations.

Linda Trueb

In the 1990s, the KU collections were augmented by acquisition a major collection from the West Indies, obtained by Albert Schwartz and this associates from the 1960s through the 1980s. In the Old World, the largest collections are from Asia (21,000 specimens), especially from the Philippines (~18,000 specimens), mostly resulting from the efforts of current Curator-in-Charge Rafe M. Brown and his students. Curator Richard E. Glor and his students are actively working in the northern Caribbean.

Julian Lee