Australian Museum Ichthyology Collection

Ichthyology is the study of fishes. There are estimated to be over 32,500 species of fishes worldwide and nearly 5,000 in Australia.

Fishes are cold-blooded (mostly) animals that have:

  • gills for breathing
  • a backbone or a notochord (a cartilaginous rod)
  • fins (most species but not all)
  • scales (most species but not all)

About the collection

As one would expect, the Fish Research Collection contains many adult and larval fish specimens. These are used by researchers worldwide.

The collection contains specimens from all around the world, but has large holdings of fishes from the deepsea and Indo-Pacific reefs as well as larval fishes, gobies and freshwater fishes from New South Wales.

Of particular importance are the fish type specimens. These are the specimens upon which the original scientific description of the relevant species was based. The Australian Museum fish type collection is one of the most important in the world, containing over 12,600 specimens* (over 5200 lots), some of which date back well into the 1800s.

The majority of the collection has been fixed in 10% formaldehyde then transferred to 70% ethyl alcohol for long term storage. In recent years many frozen and alcohol-fixed tissues have been added to the collection for use in genetic studies.

Collection data is all held in a KE Emu database. Some of these data are available online.

* Type statistics determined on 4 April 2012.

Mark McGrouther , Senior Fellow
Last Updated:

Tags fishes, ichthyology, collection, Australian Museum, loans, specimens, larval,