Amphibians came onto land from the aquatic environment over 380 million years ago. Currently, existing amphibians are divided into three orders: anurans (toads, frogs and tree frogs), urodeles (newts and salamanders) and gymnophionans.
The Muséum’s amphibian collection is one of the largest of its kind in the world. It includes some 150,000 specimens, belonging to 3,424 species out of the 8,240 known species, and 2,300 name-bearing specimens. It mainly consists of specimens preserved in fluid, but also includes skeletons.
Some specimens or samples require particular conservation methods, like tissues for genetic analyses, anatomical slides or larvae (tadpole) collections. The amphibian collection is housed at the Zoothèque.
When Duméril and Bibron published volumes 8 and 9 of L’Erpétologie générale (1841-1854), almost all of the knowledge about the described amphibians was based on the Muséum’s collections. The specimens mentioned were collected by travelling naturalists who set off with the great French maritime explorers and assembled a unique group of specimens.
Thus, this historic collection contains specimens from all the continents. The specimens from the first half of the 20th century mainly represent the fauna of the former French colonies (Africa, Madagascar, Indochina). The more recent specimens generally come from Guiana and South-East Asia.
The amphibian collection is a scientific tool used for research, teaching and expertise. Some specimens are displayed at exhibitions at the Muséum or other French or international institutions.
These specimens are the subject of taxonomy and systematics studies, as well as palaeontology, ecology, epidemiology and anatomy studies. National and international researchers have access to the collection either directly when visiting the Muséum or by loan. The collection specimens feature in scientific publications, including the description of new species.
Managing the collections requires constant hard work. Although the computerisation of the historical catalogues is achieved, checking and finalising the information and updating the taxonomy are ongoing processes. This is particularly relevant for the data on type specimens, which must be made available to the international scientific community.