Australian Museum Herpetology Collection

Herpetology is the study of reptiles and amphibians. Reptiles include snakes, lizards, crocodiles, turtles and tortoises. Amphibians include frogs, salamanders and caecilians. The two groups of animals are only distantly related but have traditionally been placed together as a research discipline.

Herpetology Collection

Herpetology Collection
Creator: Tiki Rand © Australian Museum

Reptiles are cold-blooded animals that have:

  • scaly skin
  • long robust ribs that encircle their internal organs
  • 'live' young or lay shelled eggs

Amphibians are cold-blooded animals that typically have:

  • soft skin containing mucus and poison glands
  • short straight ribs that do not encircle their internal organs
  • a two phase life cycle that has an aquatic larval stage and an air-breathing adult stage

About the collection

The Herpetology Section has a large and comprehensive collection of research specimens from throughout Australia and the Pacific region. General coverage of the Australian species is high with approximately 90% of all known species represented in the collection. Reptiles are the major group represented - more than two thirds of the total collection. Lizards make up around two thirds of all reptiles, a feature that reflects the richness (in terms of number of species) of this group of reptiles. Lizards from northern and eastern Australia and the Pacific Islands are particularly well represented, as this group has been the focus of research interests at various times throughout the history of the Herpetology section. There are also significant collections of sea snakes and freshwater turtles. The amphibian collection is extensive in its coverage of species at both at a national and broader Australasian level, and contains representatives of frog species that have recently become extinct in eastern Australia. The collection is fully registered and the associated data computerised.

At a regional level the collection is primarily Australian based with over a third of the collection from New South Wales. Major strengths outside of New South Wales include, collections from biodiversity 'hotspots' in northern Australia such as the Kimberly region of north-western Western Australia, the Alligator Rivers region (Kakadu) of the Northern Territory; and Cape York Peninsula. There are also extensive collections from elsewhere in the Pacific region, most notably from New Guinea and New Caledonia.

Associated with the specimen collection is an extensive collection of tissue samples. Its content has a strong New South Wales bias, but also contains samples from northern Australia, New Guinea, and the south-west Pacific Islands. The Herpetology section also houses books and journals, as part of the Australian Museum Research Library, dealing with all aspects of herpetology, and has an extensive collection of reprints or photocopied articles.


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Ross Sadlier , Collection Manager, Herpetology
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