INHS Amphibian and Reptile Collection/UIMNH Amphibian and Reptile Collection


History. The first catalogue ledger of the Illinois Natural History Survey Amphibian and Reptile Collection was started in 1941.  The first 879 entries were transcribed from index cards and include specimens collected as far back as 1870.  Most of these early specimens do not include collector information.  The earliest specimen with collector information is an Eastern Massasauga collected by Stephen A. Forbes in Pekin, Illinois in 1873.  Also among these earliest records with collector data are specimens from Colorado collected by George Cooper and C.C. Crandall (possibly Christopher C. Crandall) in 1875.  Other early collectors include Franklin Sumner Earle (specimens collected in Union Co., IL; 1877); Harrison Garman (Marshall Co., IL; 1878); H.A. Surface (Mason Co., IL; 1882) and Julius Hurter (Madison Co., IL; 1896).  See "A History of Herpetology in Illinois" for more information on early herpetologists in Illinois and List of INHS Collectors.  Stephen A. Forbes reported to the University of Illinois Board of Trustees in 1886 that he had just completed moving all property from the former State Laboratory of Natural History facilities in Normal, IL.  Included in this list were 1,400 specimens of amphibians and reptiles. Unfortunately, It seems that many of these early specimens did not survive to be catalogued in 1941.

Holdings. The Illinois Natural History Survey Amphibian and Reptile Collection contains approximately 24,000 catalogued specimens, representing 55 families and over 550 species (51% Amphibia, 49% Reptilia). The geographical emphasis is Illinois (75%). This is the result of the efforts of Phil W. Smith, who collected specimens from 1935 to 1949 for his comprehensive study "The Amphibians and Reptiles of Illinois," published in 1961. In addition to the Illinois material, the INHS collection also houses specimens from 45 other U.S. states, Canada, the Caribbean, Mexico, South America, Asia, Africa, and Europe. Most notable among these are specimens collected by P.W. Smith from California (1943-1952) and Mexico (1957-1965), specimens of S.A. Minton from Pakistan, Mexico and Texas and specimens from Thailand collected by R.W. Larimore (1963). We are currently compiling a list of major collectors associated with the INHS Amphibian and Reptile Collection, including short bios.

Frozen Tissues. We also maintain a tissue collection that contains high quality tissues from a portion of our vouchered specimens, mostly those collected after 1998. This collection may be searched by choosing the appropriate link from the Data tab, above. The search engine will deliver limited location information. Detailed location data may be obtained by contacting the curator.

Non-specimen Based Amphibian and Reptile Collections/ Databases at INHS

Frozen Tissues. In addition to the tissue collection described above, we maintain a separate tissue collection for which we do not have corresponding voucher specimens. These tissues are from amphibians and reptiles that are threatened or endangered or represent a large series of animals from long-term research conducted in the Phillips Lab at INHS. Examples include several hundred blood samples from our Eastern Massasasuga (Sistrurus c. catenatus) research and several large series of freshwater turtles (Emydoidea blandingii, Trachemys scripta, Chrysemys picta, Pseudemys concinna, Terrapene carolina) and Ozark Hellbenders, Cryptobranchus alleganiensis. Contact the curator for more details.

The Non-INHS IL Herp Database. This database contains over 27,000 amphibian and reptile records from Illinois excluding those in the INHS Amphibian and Reptile Collection.  The majority of these records were obtained from other collections throughout the United States (e.g., American Museum of Natural History, the University of Kansas Museum of Natural History, etc.).  These records were entered exactly as they were received from other collections.  Other records in this database are unvouchered, coming from literature records (e.g., Garman's 1892 " A Synopsis of Reptiles and Amphibians of Illinois from the Illinois Laboratory of Natural History Bulletin), Herp Review, newspaper articles, the Illinois Natural Heritage Database, field notes from individuals in the Phillips Lab and other reliable individuals. Only a small portion of these records are accompanied by a digital image (see below).  These unvouchered records are given the acronym "Unvouch", followed by a number.  The numbers for this series start at 25,000; e.g., Unvouch 27293 is a Clonophis kirtlandii record with a photo, submitted by Evan Menzel & Tim Hunkapiller. I have not personally verified the identifications of all of the records in this database (especially the 24,000 records from other collections), and a condition of my receipt of records from many of the collections and the Illinois Natural Heritage Database included a "do not distribute" clause, therefore, this database is not available to the public.  However, we can give summary statistics from the database to aid in directing museum visits and we can give full details for most unvouchered records (except those from the Illinois Natural Heritage Database).

Images. We maintain a digital image collection at INHS.  We accept digital images of amphibians and reptiles from anywhere in the world.  Images are kept in two separate databases; one for Illinois and a second for non-Illinois.   Images in the non-Illinois collection are catalogued as INHS Year.letter, e.g., INHS 2011a.  

The Illinois Image Databse was recently overhauled and the catalogue system was changed.  The original system used the INHS acronym followed by a year and a number, e.g. INHS 2012.01.  This database was merged with the Non-INHS IL Herp Database (see above) and images are now cross-referenced to the Unvouch number (and in rare cases with the original museum acronym as we have images of a few specimens from other collections).  I have assembled a table giving the Unvouch equivalents of the images catalogued under the old INHS Year.number system.  The old numbering system will remain cross-referenced in our database.




The University of Illinois Museum of Natural History. In October 1997, the INHS took over curation and management of the University of Illinois Museum of Natural History (UIMNH) Amphibian and Reptile Collection. The two collections were NOT merged, but no new specimens are being added to the UIMNH collection.  Information about the UIMNH collection, including a searchable database of holdings and an updated Catalogue of Primary Types, can be found at the University of Illinois Museum of Natural History page.

Location.  Both the INHS and UIMNH collections are housed on the first floor of the Natural Resources Building on the campus of the University of Illinois (room 96). 

Access.  Access to the collection by qualified researchers, normally available from 8:30am-5pm M-F may be arranged by contacting the collection manager, Dan Wylie or curator, Dr. Chris Phillips.

Specimen loans.  Specimen loans are available to qualified researchers.  Loans are generally made for a period of one year, renewable upon request.  Primary types are generally loaned for a period of one month from the date received by the borrower and are non-renewable.  Details of the collection policy may be seen here.

Acquisitions and maintenance.  In general, specimens will not be accessioned unless they have been properly curated and have data that includes at least the collection locality and date.  In addition, copies of all necessary collecting permits are essential.  Standard methods of preservation and maintenance are followed.

Database.  Label data for the entire collection holdings are accessible via our local database search interface (see Data tab, above) or via the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) portal