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Ichthyology Department

Research Collections

Larval Fish Archive

The MCZ Larval Fish Archive is an ongoing project that curates and houses specimens of larval fishes for research use by the scientific community.

The archive had its beginnings in the transfer of the fish collections at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution to the Museum of Comparative Zoology in the late 1970s. It was found that a large part of these collections were valuable larvae and small juveniles of epipelagic and mesopelagic species. With support from the National Science Foundation (BSR85-01268 and 86-17845), S.L. Richardson and then D.G. Smith were brought to the MCZ to sort and identify these specimens and to establish a larval archive. This preliminary phase of the was completed by the late 1980s and new material is constantly being added during a second phase.

aristostomias polydactylus

MCZ 70579. Aristostomias polydactylus. Photo by R. Gilmer

The Larval Fish Archive now has some 28,000 lots (141,000 specimens). The bulk of the archive is from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Additional material from the Gulf of Maine (H. DeWitt), the Bahamas (P. Major), the Coral and Solomon seas and world-wide blue water SCUBA collections (G.R. Harbison), and Mid-Atlantic Bight voucher specimens (M.P. Fahay) greatly supplement this Atlantic pelagic collection.

One of the goals of this project is to disseminate the information and to stimulate the use of this resource. All of this material is available for loan to recognized institutions.

We urge researchers to deposit voucher material from their larval studies in a permanent archive. The MCZ Larval Fish Archive has been designated a national repository and we have the responsibility to house voucher material from all areas of ichthyological research. We accept figured specimens, unique specimens, transforming juveniles, and developmental series either raised in aquaria or collected from the wild. We also accept voucher material from faunal surveys but may not be able to accept thousands of lots from any one locality.

Selected images are available through the MCZ Collections Search.


Lamprogrammus scherbachevi

MCZ 165928. A larval Lamprogrammus, a deep-sea cusk eel, that naturally has its
gut outside the body before it transforms into an adult.

Ranzania leavis

MCZ 161235. A larval ocean sunfish, Ranzania laevis. This tiny larvae will grow to 80 cm long as an adult.


MCZ 149116. The larvae of a deep-water tripodfish Bathypterois from mid-water. Image captured before preservation. As an adult it stands on the bottom on tripod-like fins in water as deep as 5,000 meters.