Research Collections of the Zoological Institute RAS — Reptiles (Reptilia)

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The origins of herpetology in St. Petersburg can be traced to the time of Peter the Great. In 1717, Peter the Great purchased for the Kunstcamera the famous collection of Albertus Seba, a merchant in Amsterdam 120 amphibians and reptiles (the first Seba collection) became the first specimens of herpetological collection.

Later collections were enriched from various expeditions within the Russian Empire and abroad by the efforts of the first Museum Director, Johann F. Brandt. Collection gathered in Brazil by G.I. von Lansdorf in 1821–1828 and by I.G. Voznesensky to Russian America, in 1840–1845 (California, Alaska) is of great historical and scientific value.

Successor of Brandt as Director A.A. Strauch expanded scientific cooperation and exchanges with the majority of European museums and the leading herpetologists. Among his publications is the catalogue of representative for that time herpetological collections with 5889 catalogue numbers (1222 reptile species: 119 of them are turtles, 14 — crocodiles, 596 — lizards and 493 — snakes) and 1285 catalogue numbers of amphibians (283 species, 9 of them are Caecilians, 224 — Anura, 50 — Caudata) (Strauch, 1889).

A.M. Nikolsky published the first books (1915, 1916, 1918) on the herpetofauna of the Russian Empire with the catalogue numbers of the Zoological Museum. Collections of N.M. Przewalsky, N.A. Zarudny and other Russian explorers during their expeditions to Iran and Central Asia, for which A. Strauch, J. von Bedriaga, A.M. Nikolsky and S.F. Tsarevsky described new species of amphibians and reptiles, constitute «the Golden Fund» of our collections, among them about 1,000 type specimens, representing about 150 taxa of species rank.

In Soviet Union a significant contribution to the sampling and study of collections were made by leading herpetologists S.A. Chernov, P.V. Terentiev, and I.S. Darevsky.

The most representative part of the collections of almost every group of herps was sampled from the territory of Eurasia (former USSR, Mongolia, and Vietnam), regions of most active research of herpetologists of Zoological Institute. The paleoherpetological part of the collection originated from the occasional finds of geological expeditions in the Central Asia and Kazakhstan (A.K. Rozhdestvensky, V.V. Kuznetsov, and others). Later, it was enlarged by samples coming from paleontological works in the Central Asia and Kazakhstan, Mongolia, and Russia made by L.I. Khozatsky and L.A. Nessov. Paleontological materials cover a wide time period from middle Jurassic (Mesozoic) to the Holocene (subfossil material from archaeological sites) and come from different regions of Russia, Ukraine, Moldova, China, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan, Most of the collection are represented by the fossil turtles.

Currently the size of main herpetological collections is more than 400 000 specimens (including amphibians: 12212 catalogue numbers, about 100 000 specimens; reptiles: 28833 catalogue numbers, about 300 000 specimens), represented mainly by alcohol preserved specimens, and dry specimens (mainly turtles and crocodiles). Among type specimen 313 catalogue numbers of amphibians (about 550 specimens); reptiles — more than 1000 catalogue numbers (about 2600 specimens).

Paleocollection includes more than 150 catalogue numbers, most of them frequently containing dozens and hundreds of specimens: 15 specimens are nomenclatural types. The collection is represented mainly by isolated bones and their fragments, but also by parts of skeletons and skulls, and rocks with impressions of bones. The collection includes remains of amphibians, turtles, ichthyosaurs, plesiosaurs, pterosaurs, dinosaurs, crocodiles, lizards, snakes, and birds. The main part of the collection represents turtles.

The osteological part of the collection consists of almost 500 collection numbers. These are complete skeletons and isolated skulls. The collection includes numerous taxa of amphibians and reptiles of the former USSR fauna, as well as some exotic forms (Pyxicephalidae, Agkistrodon, Cerastes, Heterodon, Contia, and others).

The collection continue to be enriched from field trips of researchers of Zoological Institute and Institute of Cytology, Russian Academy of Sciences on the base of current projects of these Institutions and Russian Foundation of Basic Research. Type collection is enlarged after numerous recent descriptions of new forms as a result of comprehensive studies of biodiversity in Eurasia.

The paleoherpetological collection continues to be enlarged through regular paleontological works within Russia (the Northern Caucasus, Western Siberia, Baikal region), Kazakhstan, and Ukraine.


Collection Curator

Dr. Natalia Ananjeva, Professor, Head of the Laboratory of Ornithology and Herpetology

Tel.: +7 (812) 323-31-40, ext. 295
Department of Herpetology, Laboratory of Ornithology and Herpetology, Zoological Institute of Russian Academy of Sciences
199034, Russia, Saint Petersburg, Universitetskaya nab., 1