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Herpetology Department

Research Collections


Skeletal Collection

Ernest Williams began the skeletal collection in 1957. Williams and his collaborators, particularly Richard Estes, had an ongoing program of skeletonization for some years. As a consequence of this program, the MCZ has one of the largest collections of herpetological skeletons.

Of the collections 7,000 specimens, that of the lizards is notable. Most of the skeletons have been entered in our skeletal file.

Cleared & Stained Collection

There are a few hundred KOH cleared and alizarian stained specimens preserved in glycerin in the collection. Most of the cleared and stained materials are amphibians.

Chromosomal Collection

Ernest Williams and his students actively employed karyotyping techniques. The karyotype collection currently housed in the Herpetology Collection includes over 20,000 slides from about 200 species with over 2,500 specimens. The specimens karyotyped are placed in the collection as a permanent record, matching the specimen to the slide with the chromosome preparation and recording the presence of a karyotyped specimen on the bottle label.

Embryology & Histology Collection

The department has a number of amphibian and reptilian eggs and embryos, as well as amphibian larvae preserved in 80% alcohol and kept as part of the main alcoholic collection. Most of these specimens are poorly preserved and not very useful. Dr. John Cadle implemented the policy of, whenever possible, preserving and permanently storing all eggs, embryos and larvae in buffered 10% formalin.

Most important is the collection of histological serial sections of embryonic material. The collection is small but some of the preparations have historical and research value (for example, the serial sections of turtle embryos prepared by B. W. Kunkel for his studies on the development of the chondrocranium). E. E. Williams used these same slides in his research on vertebral development. We also have serial selections of F. H. Sweet on which he based his classical experimental study on Ambystoma limb development and regeneration during the 1920's and early 1930's. These specimens are important reference material.