Collections in the Department of Zoology, Southern Illinois University Carbondale

The Department of Zoology collections consist of eight units: (1) Parasitic Helminths, (2) Insects, (3) Arachnids, (4) Invertebrates (general), (5) Fishes, (6) Amphibians and Reptiles, (7) Birds, and (8) Mammals. The collections officially began in the early days of the university, especially under the guidance of George Hazen French. As a unit there are over 770,000 specimens representing 10,000 identified species of animals. The Insect Collection is the largest with almost 300,000 specimens; the Fish Collection has over 200,000 specimens; other collections (e.g., Arachnids) have over 100,000 specimens. Some are growing rapidly, such as the Fish Collection (which adds between 8,000 and 10,000 specimens a year). SIUC added additional space in the new Life Science III building for curating and housing the Ichythyological and Herpetological collections. The geographic scope of the collections ranges from Illinois to worldwide. Typically, they contain material from midwestern states as well as supplementary national and international representation. The SIUC systematic collections are among the largest and oldest in Illinois (dating to the 1880s in some cases) and are used by scientists and other people throughout North America. They provide the University and other Illinois scientists with a major source of data for their research, teaching, service, and grant and contract obligations. Data associated with the collections, in combination with the expertise of the faculty curators, have been used in the statewide geographic information systems program, the development of meaningful lists of endangered species, the writing of a freshwater fish field guide for North America north of Mexico, a manual on the stink bugs and their close relatives for northeastern North America, the recognition of biologically outstanding natural areas, and the formulation of recovery plans for endangered species and unusual habitats. During a brief sample of five years in the late 1990s, more than 100 scientists borrowed over 30,000 specimens for study or visited SIUC to study the collections and 23 graduate degrees were conferred to students conducting collection-related research here. Over 450 scholarly papers based wholly or in part on the SIUC collections have been published by zoology faculty, students, and colleagues. And, of course, specimens from the collections are used regularly in some 25 courses of the Department of Zoology.

SIUC Helminthology Collection

This is a composite collection of a wide spectrum of helminths from various vertebrates gathered over the last twenty-four years of the 20th century. The collection includes (1) a variety of monogeneans, digeneans, cestodes, nematodes, and some acanthocephalans, amounting to approximately 1,000 specimens and 800 species of primarily voucher specimens recovered from birds and mammals from various localities throughout the United States; (2) a variety of helminths from amphibians collected in Illinois and surrounding states; (3) voucher specimens and paratypes of amphibian and reptile helminths from Mexico, Central, and South America; (4) voucher material of marine fish helminths from the Caribbean Sea area, and (5) monogeneans and digeneans of fish taken during a ten-year period off the coasts of Okinawa and Japan. In addition, the entire helminth collection from the University of Puerto Rico was transferred to the SIUC Department of Zoology. Over 75 published papers (e.g., by Willam G. Dyer) are based wholly or in part on the specimens deposited in this collection. All type specimens coming from Dr. W. G. Dyer's research have been deposited in the Helminthological Collection of the United States National Museum at Bethesda, Maryland.

SIUC Invertebrate Collection

This collection numbers hundreds of thousands of specimens but no close estimate is possible because of lack of curatorial assistance. There are significant holdings of marine (molluscs, echinoderms) and freshwater (sponges, crustaceans) invertebrates. Several thousand specimens of mollusk shells, mostly marine, were donated in 1965 by Miss Estelle Windhorst of the Saint Louis Malacology Club. Because of shortage of space, these mostly remain packed in boxes as received, and occupy three cabinets. Two cabinets hold several thousand specimens of 50-60 species of freshwater clams. Most of these are from Illinois and they represent the majority of species known from the state. The collection houses about 200 jars and vials of freshwater sponges from southern Illinois, identified to species, including eight of the 13 species known to occur in the state. The collection of freshwater Bryozoa and Entoprocta occupies about 150 jars and vials. These were examined recently by Dr. Tim Wood, who identified 10 species from Illinois. The collection also contains large numbers of crustaceans, marine, freshwater, and terrestrial; a large collection of aquatic insects from southern Illinois; and many myriapod specimens. Many other phyla and classes are represented by smaller numbers of specimens. Over 70 publications are based wholly or in part on specimens housed in this collection.

SIUC Arachnid Collection

This is probably the largest arachnid collection in North America, outside of major museums such as the American Museum of Natural History, Museum of Comparative Zoology, or Florida State Arthropod Collection. All but one order of living arachnids are represented and about 70% of living spider families including approximately 125,000 specimens, 100 families, 700 genera, and 2,200 species. The collection is strongest in material from the midwestern United States, Florida, North Carolina, Arizona, and the Pacific Islands. The Pacific collection includes specimens from the Marquesas, Tuamotu, Society, Cook, Samoa, and Hawaiian Island groups of Polynesia; the Fiji Islands of Melanesia; and the Mariana, Marshall, and Caroline Islands of Micronesia. The curator and a colleague have studied especially the linyphiid spiders of the Pacific and a beach-inhabiting spider, the genus Paratheuma. Only this collection includes all known species of Paratheuma. Spider families especially well-represented in the collection are the Araneidae (200+ species), Theridiidae (200+), Linyphiidae (150+), Salticidae (150+), and Lycosidae (100+). Paratypes of 30 species of spiders are deposited here. Aside from the spiders, there are smaller but significant holdings of scorpions, pseudoscorpions, harvestmen, and mites. Over 70 publications are based on specimens housed in this and the Invertebrate collections. Upon the death of Dr. Joseph A. Beatty, most of this material was transferred either to the Illinois Natural History Survey or the Bishop Museum.

SIUC Insect Collection

This is the third largest collection of its kind in Illinois and consists of about 200,000 pinned specimens stored in 840 drawers and 75,000 specimens stored in alcohol. The Odonata, Heteroptera, and Lepidoptera are the most completely represented groups, reflecting the interests of the present curator (Hemiptera), former curator John C. Downey (Lepidoptera), and graduate students. The collection, heavily emphasizing the southern Illinois fauna, is used extensively by other researchers and agencies. Curator J. E. McPherson's 1982 book The pentatomoidea (Hemiptera) of northeastern North America with emphasis on the fauna of Illinois contains much biological information from studies on the southern Illinois fauna; representatives of these pentatomoids are housed in the SIUC Insect Collection. The collection also contains the most complete representation of the vast insect fauna of LaRue-Pine Hills Research Natural Area in Union County, Illinois. Several species apparently occur only in Pine Hills or represent dramatic disjunctions (e.g., Florida and Pine Hills). Over 100 publications are based wholly or in part on specimens deposited in this collection. The curator was Dr. J.E. McPherson.

SIUC Ichthyology Collection

The Ichthyology and Herpetology collections are now in the OSHA-approved space in the Life Science III building. The Ichthyology Collection is the third largest collection of its kind in Illinois and one of the largest in any midwestern state. Approximately 250,000 specimens representing 175 families, 450 genera, and over 1,100 species of both freshwater and marine fishes are included. The collection contains a total of about 21,000 catalogued lots and significant holdings of material from the eastern United States and the Mississippi River proper. The publication of A Field Guide to Freshwater Fishes of North America North of Mexico by Lawrence M. Page and Brooks M. Burr in 1991 would not have been possible without the SIUC Ichthyology Collection and the extensive collection of color transparencies associated with it. The largest collection of Kentucky fishes, including extensive series from all major drainages and many species otherwise unknown from the state, is deposited here; it formed the basis for Brooks M. Burr and Melvin L. Warren's A Distributional Atlas of Kentucky Fishes; published in 1986. Large samples of virtually all life history stages of 22 freshwater fishes are also represented. Over 100 whole skeletons of nearly all members of the sunfish family and 30 lots of percid fishes have been cleared and stained and stored in glycerin for study of bones and cartilage. Paratypes of 22 species are represented. Growth of the fish collection varies greatly from year to year depending on the activities of the curator and students, but in recent years has averaged about 8,000- 10,000 specimens, of 5-7%, per year. Specimens are stored in 70% ethanol in glass jars with polypropylene lids. Most of the jars are housed on open shelving or in metal cabinets. A unique aspect of the collection is the set of 35-mm color transparencies representing many specimens deposited in the collection. Nearly all species of North American darters (143 species), minnows (165 species), suckers (50 species), catfishes (32 species), and sunfishes (23 species) are included as well as numerous representatives of most of the other North American fish families. The Ichthyology Collection maintains the largest set of 35-mm slides of the history of ichthyology anywhere in the world, including pictures of nearly every prominent ichthyologist in North America and many others from around the world. In addition, slides of title pages and color plates from the classic works in natural history, some dating back to the 17th century, are part of the ichthyology slide set. Also associated with the collection are numerous radiographs, over 8,000 catalogued reprints, sets of a number of journals, and several hundred books on fishes,. Over 100 publications and contract reports are based wholly or in part on specimens deposited in this collection. The curator was Dr. Brooks M. Burr.

SIUC Herpetology Collection

Among the approximately 10,000 specimens in this collection, the fourth largest of its kind in Illinois, are about 4,400 catalogued amphibians and 2,500 catalogued reptiles, representing nearly 200 species of each, and a few thousand not yet catalogued. Many of the specimens remaining to be catalogued are from the southern Appalachian Mountains, were acquired during recent studies in southern Illinois (many of them killed by automobiles), or are used exclusively in the herpetology course. Among the oldest specimens in any of the SIUC collections, dating to the 1880s, are deposited here. Most material is from the eastern United States, the midwest, and Mexico. Of significance is a synoptic set of salamander larvae, Mexican species of Ambystoma, and excellent collections of some of southern Illinois rarest species. The extensive personal collection of the late Michael A. Morris (and the Philip W. Smith collection of reprints) recently were deposited in the SIUC collection. Specimens are housed on open shelving or in metal cabinets and stored in 70% ethanol in glass jars with polypropylene lids. All of the catalogued collection has been computerized, as are most of the curator's field notes. Associated with the collection are many 35-mm color slides, about 700 radiographs (mostly of salamanders), and over 9,000 catalogued reprints (computer bibliographic database), sets of numerous journals, miscellaneous maps, and some 300 books on amphibians and reptiles. Over 120 publications are based wholly or in part on specimens deposited in this collection. The curator was Dr. Ronald A. Brandon.

SIUC Avian Collection


This fine collection of avian material is used especially for teaching, research, and public tours.  It began in 1878 and now represents 728 bird species (both extant and extinct) from throughout the world.  Birds of North America are well represented, and there are many additional species from the Pacific Islands, South America, Africa, Eurasia, and Australia. The diverse material is often used by state and federal personnel for aid in bird identification.  The bird collection includes 2,989 skins and taxidermy mounts, about 200 egg sets, numerous complete skeletons, and many nests.  The collection represents nearly all avian orders and 118 families.  Specimens are stored either on open shelving or in metal cabinets on wooden trays.  Major credit for the collection goes to former curators and SIU faculty, especially, G. H. French, F. R. Cagle, H. I. Fisher, W. G. George, and G. H. Waring.  An inventory of the Collection's taxonomic diversity and holdings (updated to 23 January 2013) is available by clicking here.  The present curator is Dr. James R. Lovvorn.

SIUC Mammal Collection

An outstanding teaching collection, the samples of local mammals have been augmented with relatively unusual specimens from other continents by Chicago-area zoos. About 3,000 specimens representing 70 families, 170 genera, and 350 species are included. There are 20 taxidermy mounts, 10 whole skeleton mounts, and in a separate cold room about 150 tanned furs. Information about the collection can be retrieved from computer diskette. The strength of the collection is in Illinois specimens, although significant holdings of Costa Rican rodents and bats are included as is a large collection of calcanea accumulated by former curator Howard J. Stains. There is a large series of shrew skulls from southern Illinois and Land Between the Lakes in western Kentucky (which were instrumental in two recent publications in national/international journals), as well as several hundred skulls of Peromyscus. Specimens are stored in metal cabinets on wooden trays. Dr. George A. Feldhamer was the curator.

* SIUC Department of Zoology
* History of Zoology at SIUC
* Professors from 1874 to the Present