The reptiles include five phylogenetic groups of amniote vertebrates (turtles, sphenodontians, squamates —snakes, amphisbaenians and lizards —, crocodiles and birds). The Muséum’s reptile collection comprises the four first groups.
The reptile collection contains over 25,000 specimens including around 4,000 type specimens. It consists of specimens in fluid, stuffed specimens, skeletons and skins. Some specimens or samples require particular conservation methods, like tissues for sequencing and anatomical slides. The collection is stored in the Zoothèque. The catalogues of this collection are computerised and the database is accessible on the Muséum collection database website and the GBIF website.
The collection’s origins are closely linked to those of the Muséum. The first registered specimens come from the King’s Cabinet collection. Its historic collection contains the specimens gathered during the great scientific explorations of the early 19th century, and the specimens that enabled the production of the longest book on the subject, L’Herpétologie générale in 9 volumes, published between 1834-1854 and recently reprinted. The reptile collection contains many specimens from Africa, Madagascar and Indochina. More recently, it was further enriched by the work of the Muséum’s researchers and by major donations (Laurent Chirio, Maxime Lamotte and Charles Blanc collections). From a scientific and heritage viewpoint, the Muséum’s reptile collection is one of the world’s leading collections of historical type specimens (from the 19th century to the first half of the 20th century) and of type specimens of species described since 1950. The collection’s strength lies in its advanced age, and its wealth of type specimens and specimens of species that are now extinct.
The reptile collection is a dynamic tool that enables the Muséum to perform its various missions from a scientific and museographic point of view. The specimens are used in the fields of systematics, ecology, morphology and comparative anatomy. The collection is constantly evolving thanks to integrative approaches (molecular sequencing, CT scan, venom research) enabling the incorporation of new specimens. It also presents various kinds of data related to the specimens (field observations, DNA sequences, photographs, films, etc.).
The collection welcomes many visiting researchers and students who in return help to enrich it through knowledge translation - by designating new type specimens for example. It also provides a basis for expert work with governmental and private sector bodies (customs, IUCN, Natura 2000, CITES, agri-food industry). Finally, historical specimens and stuffed specimens are very sought after for exhibitions in French Muséums and international institutions.