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Mammals Collections

The mammal collections were founded in 1893, in the wake of the World Columbian Exposition in Chicago, and have grown into one of the world's premier resources for the study of mammalian evolution. Over its history the collection has had the names Field Columbian Museum, Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago Natural History Museum, and again Field Museum of Natural History.  Collections of Recent mammals number more than 212,000 specimens (plus ca.

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The mammal collections were founded in 1893, in the wake of the World Columbian Exposition in Chicago, and have grown into one of the world's premier resources for the study of mammalian evolution. Over its history the collection has had the names Field Columbian Museum, Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago Natural History Museum, and again Field Museum of Natural History.  Collections of Recent mammals number more than 212,000 specimens (plus ca. 1500 being processed) and 550 primary types.  Each category ranks it among the largest mammal collections in the world. Although the collections are unique, encyclopedic, and worldwide in scope, those from the Philippines, Peru, Chile, Madagascar, Tanzania, Egypt, and Iran are among the world's very best.

Established in 1894, the collection of the Division of Mammals is worldwide in scope, and with over 212,000 specimens, is one of the largest, most representative (both geographically and taxonomically) and most heavily used collections of mammals in the world. More than 500 primary type specimens are included in the collection.

Over the last thirty five years, major transformations have brought the mammal collection to high standards of curation. Beginning in 1975, most of the collection was moved into newly-constructed quarters; nearly all of the dry collection was accommodated in new specimen cases, and sufficient space has been allocated for several decades of growth.

Recent collection growth has included specimens from recent field work in eastern and southern Africa (especially Madagascar, Malawi, Burundi, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda), South America (especially Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Peru), and Southeast Asia (especially Malaysia and the Philippines), and from a wide range of other parts of the world. Growth of the fluid-preserved collection has been especially rapid. Nearly all of these specimens have come from recent field work in tropical ecosystems. Many of these represent the only fluid-preserved individuals of their species, and many newly-discovered species are included.

The mammal collection of The Field Museum currently consists of over 209,000 cataloged specimens, plus roughly 1,500 that await cataloging (over half of which are newly acquired through research programs). Thousands of specimens have been returned to our foreign collaborators at their national institutions after preparation at the Museum.

A host of distinguished curators and other scientists have contributed to the collections' development, including Daniel Elliot, Carl Akeley, Edmund Heller, Wilfred Osgood, Colin Sanborn, and Philip Hershkovitz. Today the collections continue to grow through the activities of its curators (Larry Heaney and Bruce Patterson), affiliated staff (Bill Stanley, Steve Goodman and Julian Kerbis Peterhans), and our students and associates. Douglas Kelt, Victor Pacheco, Chris Yahnke, Paúl Velazco, Danny Balete, Mike Huhndorf, and Terry Demos deserve special notice for their contributions and commitment to the collections. Annual growth rates have averaged 2-3 percent since 1980, much of it from threatened tropical areas where the fauna is especially rich and poorly known.


 

Geographic Coverage

The Field Museum mammal collection is global in scope, and includes specimens from 190 countries or equivalent geographic units. The collection is especially strong in material from South America, Southeast Asia, East Africa, Southwest Asia, China, Central America, Mexico and Australia, with smaller but very important collections from Madagascar, the Sudan, the Himalayan Front, and northern and southern Africa. In comparison with most other large collections, holdings from the United States and Canada are small (ca. 25,000). More than 40% of the specimens are Neotropical, followed by 16% Nearctic, 14% Palearctic, 13% Oriental, and 13% Ethiopian. Although the Neotropical collections represent all areas and taxonomic groups, the collections from northern Colombia and Chile are the best of their kind; Peru, Mexico, Bolivia, Brazil, Guatemala, Belize and Ecuador are also particularly well represented. From the Palearctic Region, important collections include those from Afghanistan, Iran, Egypt and China, while strengths from the Oriental Region include the Philippines, Borneo, Malaysia and India-Ceylon-Nepal-Sikkim-Burma. Most of these are unique collections. Important collections from the Ethiopian Region include those from the Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Burundi, Kenya, Madagascar, Ethiopia and Angola.  

Systematic Coverage

The collection is equally broad in its systematic coverage. The Muridae and Cricetidae are most abundantly represented with over 46,000 and 40,000, specimens, respectively, followed by the Phyllostomidae and Vespertilionidae each with over 13,000, and Soricidae and Sciuridae each with over 10,000 specimens.

Of the 136 extant families of mammals, 135 are represented, with the exception being one family of bats (Craseonycteridae); approximately 83% of 1100 extant genera are represented. Holdings of rodents and bats are especially large and complete. The Neotropical primate collection is unique owing to the endeavors of Philip Hershkovitz. Most of the specimens are study skins with skulls, but some 35,000 are fluid-preserved. In addition, there are 12,000 partial or complete skeletons, including the collection of anatomist D.D. Davis, and segregated collections of genitalia, auditory ossicles, gastro-intestinal tracts and endocranial casts.

Fluid-Preserved Specimens

Although all parts of the collection are heavily used, there has been especially rapid growth and increasing use of the fluid-preserved portion during the last 20 years. This collection includes many species that are rare in museum collections, and contains an unusually large number of large mammals.

Auxiliary Collections

The auxiliary collections in the Division of Mammals includes a fluid-preserved brain collection representing most mammalian orders, preserved genitalia, several hundred auditory ossicles, and over 500 endocranial casts representing the majority of mammalian orders. There has been growth in the collection of gastro-intestinal tracts, mainly due to recent field projects of the staff.

Frozen Tissues-The Division's frozen tissue collection contains over 40,000 samples, including whole tissue, DNA extracts, and cell suspensions. This part of the collection is growing rapidly due to our active field programs and research needs of these materials.

The Field Museum's Mammal collections are fully databased. This step was accomplished with the dedication of Museum staff and associates, together with supplemental support of the National Sciences Foundation for verification (DEB-8821834), creating relational tables for tissues (DBI-9728985), and geo-referencing (DBI-0108161) and from the Institute of Museum and Library Services for converting this database from C/Base (a UNIX program) to KE EMu, which operates under Windows.

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Collections

The mammal collection of The Field Museum contains more than 209,000 cataloged specimens which are searchable using the options presented here. The primary specimen preparations housed in the collection are skins, skulls, post-cranial skeletons, and fluid preserved...
The Field Museum's version of KE EMu's Taxonomy module supports our specimen (Catalog) data in that it holds information on names of taxa present in our collections. It is also a stand-alone tool that contains information on scientific names at all taxonomic levels,...
Carl Akeley worked at The Field Museum from 1896 to 1909, collecting and mounting animals for the Museum's exhibitions.  While working at the Field Museum he pioneered a number of advancements in the field of taxidermy.