What our wildlife collection holds

The Australian National Wildlife Collection (ANWC) holds almost 200 000 irreplaceable scientific specimens of wildlife, including skins, skeletons, specimens in spirit, bird egg collections, a wildlife sound library and frozen tissue.

Comprehensive wildlife specimens

Birds

We hold 55 000 birds, representing about 99 per cent of Australian birds – the most comprehensive collection of Australian and Papua New Guinean birds in the southern hemisphere.

Mammals

We hold 37 500 land mammals, representing 75 per cent of Australian species, including:

  • monotremes (platypuses and echidnas)
  • marsupials (kangaroos, wallabies, possums and bandicoots)
  • placentals (bats, rodents, seals and dingoes).

Our collection covers 75 per cent of Australian land mammals.

Reptiles

We hold about 10 000 reptiles, representing 60 per cent of Australian species including:

  • crocodiles
  • turtles
  • geckos
  • monitors
  • lizards
  • snakes.

Amphibians

We hold more than 3000 specimens of frogs and toadlets, representing 70 per cent of Australian species.

Eggs

We hold more than 17 000 bird eggs from more than 1000 species, which makes us a leading repository for heritage egg collection.  

Eggs can tell us much about bird distribution and behaviour. © Martin Ollman © Martin Ollman

We have leading bird egg collections including the:

  • G. Ragless Collection
  • R. Green Collection
  • J. Kershaw Collection
  • D. Seton Collection
  • A. Ey Collection.

The historical egg collections tell us much about where birds once nested and can be used to understand how their distributions and breeding behaviours are changing.

Cryo-frozen tissue bank

We hold over 37 000 samples from more than 23 000 individual specimens, making it the world's largest cryo-frozen tissue bank of Australian birds and one of the most significant collections of cryo-frozen Papua New Guinean bird tissues.

The frozen tissues are used primarily for DNA sequence analyses, providing data for evolutionary and conservation research.

Wildlife sounds

We have the largest research library of wildlife sounds in Australia, representing an estimated 100 000 documented occurrences of birds, mammals and insects.

Work is progressing to digitise these sounds and currently we have records for nearly 7000 sound recordings of 542 species, referencing over 4000 sound files.

Around 3000 of the sound files have been published to the web and can be listened to via the Atlas of Living Australia . All sound files are available under data licence to researchers and educators by application.

As well as providing data on the distribution of birds in space and time, the sound recordings provide valuable behavioural data and can be used to identify unique populations.

Various specimens to aid research

Our collection holds:

  • Study skins – these show what the living animal looked like and are used to document variation in natural populations, providing the framework for describing the diversity of life.
  • Bones and teeth – these can be used as unique identifiers and are an essential reference for fossil research. Some species of mammals can be identified from a single tooth.
  • Specimens preserved in spirit – this allows muscles, tissues and organs to be examined, providing information on anatomy and evolution.
  • A database that provides a digital record of all specimens in its archive.

Bird specimens held at the ANWC © Martin Ollman © Martin Ollman

Our database

The data on all our specimens is available to researchers and the public for free through the Online Zoological Collections of Australian Museums (OZCAM) or through the Atlas of Living Australia. Data is updated online weekly.

Through these portals, specimen data can be interrogated, mapped and downloaded as a single dataset or in combination with all other data from our national collections.

Donating to the collection

Many of the almost 200 000 scientific specimens housed in our Australian National Wildlife Collection (ANWC) have been donated by the public.

This includes collections of bird eggs and wildlife sound recordings.

We accept private collections of scientific specimens such as those handed down within families. We also gratefully accept philanthropic donations from private individuals.

Please contact us if you would like to donate a collection that you believe may have special value or to discuss a philanthropic donation.

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