The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences' herpetology collection, started in the late 1800s by Museum co-founder C.S. Brimley, contains over 105,000 cataloged records (March 2021) that consist of approximately 300,000 specimens. It is one of the largest and most complete regional collections in the United States.

Approximately 80% of the collection consists of North Carolina material, although 48 states, 57 countries, and at least 1,080 species are represented. Other states with substantial representation include California, Delaware, Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, New Jersey, New York, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia. Other countries with substantial representation include Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Gabon, and Cuba.

Most of the specimens have been accumulated since the 1960s when Emeritus Curator of Herpetology William Palmer, then Curator of Lower Vertebrates, began caring for the collections. In 2014, the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences acquired most of the herpetology collections at the Charleston Museum and Appalachian State University (R. Wayne Van Devender’s collection), and these are currently being incorporated. The completed processing of these two acquisitions will make the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences’ herpetology collection the major holdings for South Carolina, as well as North Carolina. Other significant past acquisitions include Duke University (Joseph Bailey's collection), Davidson College (E. E. Brown's collection), and Virginia Commonwealth University (Charles Blem's collection).

The collection houses fluid-preserved specimens, skeletons, skins, tissues for molecular analyses, and other materials. Photographic vouchers, field notes, other museums' records of North Carolina holdings, and specimen data sheets are also maintained as part of the materials documenting these resources.

Researchers and the management community use the collection to identify, document geographic distributions, learn the biology, and determine the conservation status of populations and species of amphibians & reptiles in North Carolina and the world beyond.

Checklist of North Carolina Amphibians & Reptiles

NCMNS Herpetology Unit Facebook Page

Our profile on Google Scholar contains a list of publications that have used our specimens.

A review of the collection’s history is provided in:
Stuart, B. L., J. C. Beane, W. M. Palmer, and A. L. Braswell. 2011. The herpetology collection at the North Carolina State Museum of Natural Sciences. Herpetological Review 42(3): 336-338. [PDF]

Online Collections

Search the Herpetology Collection Database


Fields of Research