Modern, data-rich specimens are crucial to research endeavors. KU Ornithology has one of the two most diverse avian tissue collections and top three largest avian osteological collections in the world.
Study Skin Collection
The study skin collections totals more than 60,000 specimens. These collections are strongest for the Great Plains of the United States and for Mexico, with additional important holdings from across Central and South America, China and Southeast Asia, Australia and New Guinea and the Southwest Pacific Islands, Central Asia, and Africa.
Avian Osteological Collections
The avian osteological collections are extensive, totaling over 32,500 specimens, and ranked third largest in the world (Wood and Schnell 1986). This component of the collection has important strengths from the Great Plains of the United States, Mexico, and northern South America. Important holdings include critical and unique Ecuadorian series, extensive recent Australian material, and a large series of steamer-ducks (Tachyeres sp.). Recent collecting activities have built South American skeletal holdings into an important collection, with material from poorly represented sectors such as the Atlantic Forest, the Yucatan Peninsula, Guyana, and montane Central America.
Although fluid-preserved specimens were not an early focus of Ornithology activities, the collections at KU were ranked seventh in North America at the time of the last summary of anatomical holdings (Wood et al. 1982). More recently, as part of Prum's research program, these collections have grown significantly, with important holdings of suboscine passeriform birds, among other groups. Now housed with ample space and ideal storage conditions in an NSF- and State of Kansas-funded addition, this collection is seeing increased research applications.
Frozen tissue collection
The frozen tissue collection is the fastest-growing in Ornithology with nearly 32,000 samples. . As a result of the worldwide sampling by the Division, this collection sees intense use from both within KU and in the systematic community at large.