Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology


Amphibian and Reptile Collection

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List of UAZ Type Specimens

Collection Description and Composition

Collection History

Photo Specimen Voucher Initiative 2006

Specimen Loan & Tissue Grant Policies

Using Collection Facilities

Data Requests

Acquisitions & Donations

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Collection Description and Composition

The University of Arizona (UAZ), Herpetology Collection houses over 56,500 cataloged specimens. The holdings for this Legacy Collection span forty-six countries from six continents, and include specimens from forty-five U.S. states and territories, as well as thirty Mexican states. The principal strength of this collection, however, resides in extensive holdings from the Southwestern United States, Northern Mexico, and the possesion of the single best assemblage of amphibians and reptiles from the states of Arizona and Sonora in existence. Fully seventy-eight percent of the collection's specimens originate from these two states. Other regions with coverage include Central America, South America, Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, Malaysia, and the Middle East.

The vast majority of these specimens are formalin-fixed and preserved in isopropyl alcohol, but the collection also includes osteological preparations, dehydrated specimens, photographic specimen vouchers, formalin preserved amphibian larvae, and a small but growing tissue collection. This collection is maintained by Collections Manager George Bradley. Any inquiries or comments should be directed to him. Full contact information is found at the bottom of this page.

At present, approximately 240 species of amphibians from 3 Orders, 24 Families, and 66 Genera, as well as 620 species of reptiles from 3 Orders, 35 Families, and 252 Genera are represented. Taxonomically, the collection has several important strengths. The collection possesses one of the largest and most diverse assemblages of the Teiid genus Cnemidophorus available with over 8,500 specimens distributed in 35 species. Our holdings in the Family Xantusiidae demonstrate another strength, where 10 species are represented by over 1,200 specimens. Several other “southwestern specialties” such as the Viperid genus Crotalus (20 species, 2027 specimens), the Colubrid genera Phyllorhynchus (2 species, 455 specimens), Thamnophis (18 species, 1432 specimens), Salvadora (5 species, 550 specimens), and Chionactis (2 species, 295 specimens), as well as the Iguanid genera Urosaurus 6 species, 2583 specimens), Phrynosoma (12 species, 1909 specimens), Sauromalus (4 species, 340 specimens), and Sceloporus (44 species, 5661 specimens) are very well represented. This collection is also well known for its holdings of the genus Heloderma , with 25 H. horridum and 249 H. suspectum.

The collection maintains a total of 142 type specimens, which are comprised of 12 holotypes, 109 paratypes, 5 topotypes, and 16 topoparatypes. These type specimens may be made available for non-destructive study at UAZ facilities only, and are not available for specimen loans.

Holdings for the amphibian and reptile collection are fully computerized. All information available for a given specimen is included in this database. The database available within this website, however, is abstract, and contains only relative numbers for the taxa represented. Each specimen record consists of a general locality and UAZ catalog number. Specific information may be obtained on request, see below for information on data requests.

Collection History

The collection had its origins during the first decade of the 1900s when Herbert Brown, the first director of the Arizona State Museum, acquired a few herpetological specimens while collecting birds around Tucson and Southeastern Arizona. From 1910 through the 1920s, University of Arizona Zoologist Charles T. Vorhies and Walter P. Taylor of the U.S. Biological Survey took specimens from Southern Arizona that eventually made their way into the collection. From the 1930s through the late 1940s collectors such as E. C. Jacot, C. W. Quaintance, A. J. Van Rossem, as well as W. P. Taylor added to the university’s holdings. By in large, these specimens were taken almost incidentally as these early collectors busied themselves with the more prescribed activities of their professions and objectives. By 1950, the collection consisted of approximately 1,000 specimens, the majority of these being from the Tucson area and Southern Arizona. It is probably safe to assume that these pioneer collectors had little or no inkling that the specimens they gathered during the first few decades of the 20th century would form the nucleus for one of the great regional legacy collections of the western United States.

In 1950, Dr. Charles H. Lowe (recently deceased professor emeritus in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology), arrived at the University of Arizona after receiving his doctorate degree under the guidance of Dr. Raymond B. Cowles at the University of California at Los Angeles. Lowe, being an energetic and dynamic herpetologist with insights into a multitude of disciplines, set out immediately to build the collection. He brought with him a personal collection of some 1,500 specimens, largely from New Mexico, California, and Baja California. Lowe’s varied interests and areas of expertise attracted a wide variety of students who, under his direction, made advances in fields ranging from genetics, systematics, and physiology, to population biology and the classification of biotic communities. During the 1950s and 1960s, Lowe, his students, and associates made extensive collections from the Southwestern United States and Mexico. A complete list of principal collectors during this “golden age” of collecting at the University of Arizona would be far too great to present here, but they include R. W. Dickerman, Tien W. Yang, Elizabeth A. Halpern, Stephen R. Goldberg, Arthur J. Ruff, Allen E. Thomas, Kenneth S. Norris, Robert L. Bezy, Gerald O. Gates, Wallace G. Heath, Richard S. Felger, Kenneth K. Asplund, Oscar H. Soule, John W. Wright, Joe T. Marshall, A. D. Cecil, III, Charles J. Cole, Wade C. Sherbrooke, J. Homer Ferguson, Peter J. Lardner, and Penelope A. Graf. Lowe also made collections on trips abroad during tours of the deserts and arid lands of the Old World, as well as forays into Central and South America.

By the early 1970s, the rapid pace of collection building that so typified the 1950s and 1960s began to moderate, and large scale mass collecting shifted into more prudent sampling of populations and regions. Though collection growth has decelerated somewhat, the collection remains dynamic. From 1970 to the present, many workers have made valuable additions to this institution. Some of the more paramount of these acquisitions include collections by John K. Cross, Richard A. Blake, Thomas R. Van Devender, Michael D. Robinson, Tony L. Burgess, Stephen F. Hale, C. Wayne Howard, Darrel R. Frost, Terry B. Johnson, Cecil R. Schwalbe, James A. Hudnall, Peter A. Holm, Julia V. Salmon, George L. Bradley, Philip C. Rosen, Brent E. Martin, Shawn S. Sartorius, and Dale S. Turner. This period has also seen several important acquisitions from other institutions, the most important of these unquestionably being the donation of over 2,100 preserved specimens from the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. This ASDM collection, principally composed of material collected from the Southwestern United States and Northern Mexico during a period that spanned the 1940s through the 1980s, was largely built by William H. Woodin, Mervin W. Larson, Merritt S. Keasey, and others affiliated with the Desert Museum.

The UAZ Herpetology Collection continues to be a major repository of voucher material for a wide array of studies and projects in the southwestern United States. Recent faunal surveys and ecological studies have added valuable specimens from a number of parks, monuments, conservation areas, refuges, and military reservations, as well as other locales of federal, state, and private stewardship. These specimens, whether collected a hundred years ago or today, constitute the “baseline” in studies ranging from systematics to reproduction, parasitic infection, disease outbreak, diet, activity periods, and distribution in both space and time. When taken as a whole, these specimen-based disciplines form the core for very important and much needed work in conservation biology, and provide us with a glimpse into what was, what is, and what the future may hold.

Specimen Loan and Tissue Grant Policies

Due to recent budget cuts and staff reductions, requests for large or particularly time-consuming loans may, unfortunately, require delay in processing, or rejection. See below for facility visitation polices.

The University of Arizona Collection of Amphibians and Reptiles provides specimens for loan, and grants of tissue for educational and research purposes. This service is provided without cost to the user. Type specimens, or specimens deemed too rare or fragile for travel, are not available for loan. These specimens, however, can ordinarily be examined on a visit to this facility. Loans are only granted to qualified personnel at recognized institutions that maintain collections, and possess facilities to properly house and care for the loan material. Students should request a loan in care of their faculty advisor or appropriate collections staff. Individuals not affiliated with such an institution are required to make prior arrangements with the appropriate person and institution to receive and care for the specimens.

Loan requests must be made in writing, and should include a statement explaining the scope of the project and specific use of the material. This statement needs to address any invasive procedures proposed. Any planned destructive methodology (e.g., removing specimen parts, making additional cuts, clearing and staining, or dissection), must be approved in writing in advance of the loan. If permission is granted the borrower for any destructive sampling, any part or parts removed must be labeled with the UAZ catalog number and returned with the specimen. Written requests can be sent via e-mail or letter.

Loans are generally of six months duration. Requests for loan extensions can be made, but must be received in writing before delinquency on the original due date. A range of factors may come into play regarding a given extension request, therefore, requests are granted at the discretion of the University of Arizona. To acknowledge safe receipt of the loan, the borrower must sign, date, and return a copy of the loan invoice. If the specimens have been damaged during shipment, the borrower must report this damage immediately. The borrower is accountable for damages occurring during specimen handling. Smaller loans of more common species may be completed in full with a single installment. Larger loans, or loans of species with limited representation in the collection are typically processed in tandem, with installments of 1/2, 1/3, or even 1/4 the number originally requested. Each installment is mailed out in succession as the previous set of specimens is returned by the borrower. Researchers requesting very large loans or large, unwieldy specimens may be asked to visit the collection facilities. 

Loans may not be transferred to other individuals or institutions without prior written permission. All loans must be housed in a secure environment and protected from extremes of temperature and light.  All specimens should be kept in the dark, except when in actual use. Unless otherwise indicated, adult amphibians should be covered in 33% isopropyl alcohol. Many larval amphibians are housed in 5% buffered forma lin. Reptiles should be covered in 55% isopropyl alcohol.

Except for loan duration and condition issues, all requests for grants of tissue must follow the outlines for traditional specimens given above. Unlike traditional specimens, however, tissue stocks, by their very nature are eventually depleted with use. Thus, more stringent guidelines have been adopted to help insure that these limited resources are not rapidly exhausted. A proposal outlining the need for specific tissues must be submitted with the grant request. In this proposal, the grantee should state what other means have been employed to acquire the needed tissues, beg, other institutions and / or fieldwork. Requests will be evaluated using criteria such as demonstrated need, quantity of requested tissue in the collection, and relative availability for replacement of like tissues in the collection.

If loaned specimens have been taxonomically re-evaluated, any new nomenclature should be provided to the University of Arizona on the return of the specimens. Any changes should be associated with specific UAZ catalog numbers.

The University of Arizona Collection of Amphibians and Reptiles should be acknowledged in any publications, reports, articles, or theses resulting from use of its specimens or tissues. We also request that two reprints from any publication based, at least in part, on UAZ material be sent to the collection for our library.

Using the Collection Facilities

The University of Arizona Collection of Amphibians and Reptiles makes available, to qualified individuals, the facilities and holdings of the collection. Due to recent budget cuts and staff reductions, these facilities are generally open by appointment only from 9:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. Monday and Tuesday, and 9:00 A.M. to 12:00 noon on Wednesday. Appointments for visits can be made by phone, letter, or e-mail. Because of limited space and staffing, appointments should be made well in advance to avoid potential conflicts. On arrival, visitors are asked to sign a guest book and / or fill out a users form. Proper handling of specimens is expected of visitors. Any destructive sampling MUST be approved in advance.

Data Requests

Specific information associated with specimens in the UAZ Collection of Amphibians and Reptiles can be made available on request. Data requests should be in writing and follow the format for specimen loan requests. Generally, legitimate and well thought out data requests are replied to as promptly as possible with all requested information available, however, specific information, or on occasion, the entire request may be withheld if sensitive populations or species are deemed at risk. Typically, a data request is processed and answered utilizing a spreadsheet attachment via e-mail. Hardcopy replies can be provided for requests generating limited data.

Specimen Acquisitions and Donations

The University of Arizona Herpetology Collection grows and becomes a more useful research resource with the acquisition of specimens. These specimens are typically acquired through collecting efforts of the collection staff or students and researchers associated with the collection. Specimens are also gained through exchanges from other institutions, as well as gifts and donations. New acquisitions are welcome, given that they are legally possessed, and have complete and reliable collection information. Complete collection information includes at a minimum:

1) Collector(s) name (the collectors catalog number should be included if available)..

2) Date of collection (should be written out as 12 May 2002 or May 12, 2002 if possible. Use of slashes such as 5/12/2002, dashes as in 5-12-2002, or Roman numerals such as 12 V 2002 are to be avoided. Also the year should be written in full such as 1999 or 2002 rather than 99 or 02.

3) Collection locality which should include Country (if outside of the United States), State and County (if applicable), as well as a specific locality. This more precise locality may include mileages from landmarks, and / or geographic coordinates such as Range and Township, Latitude and Longitude, or Universal Transverse Mercator (UTM). The recent accessibility of relatively inexpensive Geographic Positioning System (GPS) receivers, has made acquiring these precise localities much quicker, easier, and with increased accuracy. Whenever possible, the elevation should be included with the locality. 

Other useful information often included with specimens are time of collection, weather conditions, description of vegetation, description of physical area, major drainage, mountain range, valley name, collected live or dead, live on road (LOR), dead on road (DOR), and date of preservation. Field notes and collecting permits (originals or copies), associated with the donated specimens are also appreciated.

Links to Other Herpetology Related Sites

  • Tucson Herpetological Society
  • Arizona Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation
  • Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum
  • Tree of Life-Terrestrial Vertebrates
  • Crocodilian, Tuatara, and Turtle Species of the World
  • The Combined Index to Herpetology Collections
  • Amphibian Species of the World
  • The EMBL Reptile Database
  • CNAH-Center for North American Herpetology
  • Natural History Museums and Collections
  • Names of Reptiles and Amphibians of North America
  • Society for the study of Amphibians and Reptiles
  • American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists
  • Herpetologists League
  • Snakes of North America
  • Questions concerning the collection, specimen loans, tissue grants, collection visits, or data requests should be directed to:

    George Bradley
    Herpetology Collections Manager
    Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
    University of Arizona
    Tucson, Arizona 85721
    (520) 621-3187

    This page was updated on 11 May 2005 by George Bradley