Collection Strengths

 The University of Kansas Ichthyology collection contains more than 680,000 specimens and approximately 11,000 tissues of fishes from around the world and is the basis of the research and educational activities of the Division of Ichthyology.  The collection has an emphasis on freshwater fishes of the central United States and also has significant marine and estuarine collections.


The fish collection has representation from 3,249 taxa (308 families and 1,310 genera) and 97 countries including Ecuador, Fiji, Mexico, Nepal, Nicaragua, and various marine localities. The frozen tissue collection continues to expand rapidly and has broad representation of both marine and freshwater fish diversity – 11,000 individual tissue samples from 2,556 taxa (314 families and 1156 genera) and 97 countries (Australia, Belize, Ethiopia, Fiji, Nepal, Seychelles, South Africa and Tonga etc., as well as oceanic localities). The collections and the scope of research activities in the division continue to grow due to the ongoing activities of ichthyology staff and students.

The collection comprises whole, wet, voucher specimens in 70% ethanol (98%), specimens maintained as dry skeletons (0.3%) and cleared and stained preparations in glycerine (1.7%). The large, geographically and taxonomically diverse tissue collection is housed in a state-of-the-art cryogenic facility in liquid nitrogen dewars at temperatures of -175 degrees celcius. Other ancillary collections include a slide and digital image collection of specimens and locations (some of which are linked to specimen records through the database), field note and map collections.

yellow fish

The wet specimens are housed in a state-of-the-art fluid collection facility, opened in 1996. The collection storage environment is maintained at 65°F by an HVAC system. Specimens are housed in glassware and stainless steel tanks and protected by a sprinkler fire suppression system and UV-shielded lighting. The division has access to shared morphological, molecular, imaging and data analysis research facilities.

red fish

The collection is used by national and international researchers as well as by state and federal agencies. The Division of Ichthyology is designated as a Regional Center in the Midwest and Great Plains Regions (Poss and Collette 1995, Copeia 1995: 48-70) and is among the top twenty ichthyological collections in the country. Almost 60% of the specimens in the collection are from the Great Plains Region. The collection is an important resource for anyone interested in the region's fishes. The data concerning these faunas are not extensively duplicated by other ichthyological collections. The tissue collection was rated as the most diverse and with one of the largest specimen holdings in North America by the 2012 ichthyological tissue survey conducted by Walker and Smith.