The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences' herpetology collection, started in the late 1800s by Museum co-founder C.S. Brimley, contains over 84,300 cataloged records (March 2015) that consist of approximately 265,000 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 at least 47 states, 58 countries, and 675 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, and Gabon.

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

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


Since 1879, the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences has documented the biodiversity of the southeastern U.S. and beyond. This incredible record of the region’s natural history has powerful applications for research, conservation, and education. However, much of this potential remains hidden away in historic written records.

Join us! Become a Citizen Science Curator and unlock these hidden treasures. As you transform written records into a digital format you will make this valuable information available to anyone, anywhere in the world. Visit the CitSciScribe website and get started today!


Fields of Research