Illinois Natural History Survey - University of Illinois

Amphibian and Reptile Collection

The INHS Amphibian and Reptile Collection contains approximately 14,800 cataloged specimens representing 55 families and over 550 species (50% amphibians, 50% reptiles). Over 100 specimens were collected before 1900. The geographical emphasis is Illinois (66%), the result of the efforts of Philip W. Smith, who collected specimens from 1935 to 1949. 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 Philip W. Smith from California (1943-1952) and Mexico (1957-1965); specimens of Sherman A. Minton from Pakistan, Mexico, and Texas; and specimens from Thailand collected by R.W. Larimore (1963).

The smooth green snake, Opheodrys vernalis.

Philip W. Smith was the most influential curator of the INHS Amphibian and Reptile Collection. A native of Illinois, Smith was a renowned herpetologist and ichthyologist who published over 100 scientific papers on amphibians, reptiles, and fishes. He also authored two books, Fishes of Illinois and Amphibians and Reptiles of Illinois, both of which are still considered outstanding examples of regional natural history books. Phil Smith curated the INHS Amphibian and Reptile Collection from 1952 to 1978.

The green tree frog, Hyla cinerea.

In March 1998 curation and management of the amphibian and reptile collection of the University of Illinois Museum of Natural History (UIMNH) was transferred to the Illinois Natural History Survey. With nearly 100,000 cataloged specimens, it is one of the largest amphibian and reptile collections in North America. The geographic emphasis is Mexico, but there are large holdings from the United States, Canada, Ecuador, Cuba, the Philippines, and Venezuela. There are approximately 2,000 type specimens, including over 120 primary types. With the exception of a few skeletons and dried skins, the vast majority of the specimens are preserved in ethanol.

The Ouachita map turtle, Graptemys ouachitensis.

The UIMNH collection was largely assembled by Hobart Smith, curator from 1947 to 1968. In addition to adding thousands of specimens from his and his students' research, Smith was instrumental in acquiring other collections, most notably those of Edward Taylor, Chapman Grant, and Frederick Shannon. The UIMNH collection also includes specimens collected by other famous herpetologists, most notably Hobart Smith's mentor, Edward Taylor, whose Mexican collection is the most extensive in the world. Other collectors include Robert Ridgeway, an ornithologist who collected in Richland County, Illinois, early in this century; Alvin Cahn, who collected throughout Illinois in the 1930s; and Chapman Grant, who collected in Cuba and Guatemala in the 1950s.

Christopher A. Phillips, Center for Biodiversity

Illinois Natural History Survey

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Champaign, IL 61820

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