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A Brief History of the Vertebrate Collections


The roots of the Zoology collections can be traced back to the work of Dr. W. Frank Blair in 1946. Dr. Blair, apparently frustrated at the lack of knowledge pertaining to the distribution of vertebrates in Texas, focused on collecting amphibians, reptiles and mammals. When Dr. Clark Hubbs joined the faculty in 1949, he worked on adding extensive ichthyological material. The early Zoology collections also benefited from the work of Ernest G. Marsh in the 1940s, who collected vertebrates from northeastern Mexico.

Herpetology shelves Herpetology Collection – Colubridae shelves

In 1959, the Texas Natural Science Center [as the Texas Memorial Museum (TMM)] was incorporated into The University of Texas, and the Zoology Department's collection was incorporated with existing zoological holdings. Since 1959, growth in all collections has come mostly from the work of faculty and students of the university's Section of Integrative Biology (formerly the Zoology Department), but also from deposition of vouchers by government agencies, such as Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, and United States Geological Survey.

From 1960–1970 the TNHC was housed on the fourth floor in the Biology Building and functioned under the guidance of Drs. Blair, Hubbs, and Dr. R. K. Selander. TMM vertebrate curators included G. G. Raun (1960–1966), C. L. Douglas (1966–1969), and R. F. Martin (1969–1989). There may have been an early Zoology and Botany Curator by the name of Eula Whitehouse, who held the title from June 1938, till at least November 1939. In April 1970 the collection was moved to the Wesleyan Building immediately north of the present TMM, and in 1976 it moved from there to larger facilities in the Education Annex near the southeast corner of the UT campus.

The present curators of Herpetology and Ichthyology, respectively, David C. Cannatella and Dean A. Hendrickson, arrived in fall of 1990, after the retirement of Dr. Martin. In February and March of 1994, the TNHC was moved to its present location at the J. J. Pickle Research Campus. The current collection manager of the Ichthyology Collection is Adam E. Cohen. Travis LaDuc is the Assistant Curator of the Herpetology Collection. The timeline below is of past and current curators and collection managers.

TNHC staff timeline

The Ichthyology alcoholic collections currently contains over 48,000 lots (over 1 million specimens), most of which are "wet" collections, stored in 70% non-denatured ethanol. Our skeletal collection consists of both cleared & stained fish, as well as dry skeletal preps. We have acquired several collections between 2000–2003 from Midwestern University, Texas Tech University, Texas A&M University- Kingsville, and The University of Texas at Brownsville. We are working on cataloging the specimens, and will make the data available as soon as possible.

The Herpetology alcoholic collections currently contain over 80,000 specimens, most of which again, are stored in 70% non-denatured ethanol. Within these 80,000 specimens, there is a small larval amphibian collection (composed of roughly 200 lots stored in 10% formalin) and a dry skeletal collection (significant holdings of toads, genus Bufo), and a cleared & stained collection (significant holdings of anurans and central Texas salamanders). The herpetology collection has recently acquired several collections, including 250 specimens from The University of Texas at Brownsville and 12,000 specimens from Texas Tech University. Specimen information for the TTU collection has been computerized and over half of these specimens have been formally cataloged into the TNHC (all are available on loan). The herpetology collections also contain a large (30,000+) frozen tissue collection recently inventoried through an NSF Biological Research Collections improvement grant; this Genetic Diversity Collection includes substantial holdings from the Americas and SE Asia.