The Vertebrate Zoology section includes the Bishop Museum‘s collections of mammalogy, ornithology, herpetology and paleontology specimens. The geographic focus of these collections is Hawai'i and the Pacific Basin, but with representative material from other regions. Our mission is to document the non-fish vertebrate fauna of the region through the collection of specimens, to preserve these specimens through time, and make them available to scientists, students, artists and all interested persons through loans and supervised use at the museum.
Mammalogy: The mammal collection currently numbers 15,500 specimens. The Hawai‘i component is small (ca. 900) but the New Guinea component of approx. 12,000 is substantial, and is one of only two major New Guinea mammal collections in the United States (American Museum of Natural History houses the other).
Ornithology: The bird collection currently numbers 20,600 specimens. The Hawai‘i component of ca. 7,200 specimens is unique in the world in having representatives of most of the 289 species known to have occurred in the Hawaiian archipelago since first western contact in 1778, and in continuing to obtain legally salvaged or collected native birds to the present day. The Hawai‘i component contains specimens of extinct native species, native breeding species, non-breeding visitors, and introduced species. In addition, the collection houses 5,900 specimens from New Guinea, and is an important world resource for birds from this region.
Herpetology: The reptile and amphibian collection currently has ca. 17,000 cataloged specimens with another ca. 15,000 in backlog. The Hawai‘i component of 1,300 specimens is particularly concerned with documenting the occurrence and spread of alien species. The Bishop Museum has played an important and active part in documenting the introduction and establishment of new species of lizards and frogs over the last 10 years. The ca. 10,000 strong collection of New Guinea reptiles and amphibians is our fastest growing collection at the moment with two researchers actively working in Papua New Guinea.
Paleontology: This collection consists of ca. 30,000 cataloged and 10,000 backlogged specimens of sub-fossil bird bones, mostly from Hawai‘i, but also from other areas of the Pacific. Most of the material is presently out on loan to the Smithsonian Institution where experts are continuing to identify and describe new species that lived and became extinct in Hawai‘i long before western contact. Bishop Museum and the Smithsonian Institution are the only two institutions with collections of ancient bird bones from Hawai‘i.