The geographic emphasis for the fish collection focuses on the tropical Indo-Pacific region, with additional holdings from the tropical Eastern Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.

Currently, the collection includes over 40,000 cataloged lots of coral-reef fishes, with a geographic emphasis on the Indo-Pacific region, and a habitat emphasis on fishes from tropical coral reefs. Most specimens are preserved in 55% Isopropyl alcohol, and are contained in glass jars. About half of the lots contain only a single specimen, but some lots contain over 100 specimens (average 2.8 specimens per lot, or about 100,000 specimens total). The collection also includes many large specimens contained in stainless steel or fiberglass bins, the largest of which is the Holotype of the Megamouth Shark (Megachasma pelagios).

All cataloged specimens are entered in the Museum database, and most records are complete and many include extensive annotations. Data are available through several major portals, including the Global Biodiversity Information Facility portal, the iDigBio PortalFishNet 2, and the Ocean Biogeographic Information System. Digitized images are available.

Ichthyological research at Bishop Musuem has primarily focused on the taxonomy, systematics and biogeography of coral-reef fishes throughout the vast Indo-Pacific region.  While the collection does house specimens from freshwater, pelagic, and deep-sea environments, the overwhelming majority of of the collection was accumulated through the research career of Dr. John E. “Jack” Randall. Jack has authored more publications (880)  and has discovered and documented more new species of coral-reef fishes (815), than any ichthyologist in history. He has also published landmark studies on food habits, mimicry, hybridization, and reproductive biology of fishes, and was instrumental in understanding the cause of Ciguatera fish poisoning. Now in his 90’s Jack continues to actively produce important scientific works.

Jack’s protégé, Dr. Richard L. Pyle, began working in the Museum’s ichthyology collection in 1986 and continues to to follow his mentor’s lead in exploration and discovery on tropical coral-reefs throughout the Indo-Pacific. In particular, he has pioneered the use of mixed-gas closed-circuit rebreather technology to explore coral-reef habitat at depths below where conventional SCUBA can be safely used. These efforts have led to the discovery of more than a hundred new species of fishes, as well as helped foster an international recognition of the deep coral-reef environment, variously known as the Coral-Reef “Twilight Zone” or, more recently, “Mesophotic Coral Ecosystems”.

Richard L. Pyle, Ph.D., Associate Zoologist, Database Coordinator
808-848-4115 deepreef@bishopmuseum.org

Arnold Y. Suzumoto, Ichthyology Collections Manager
808-848-4115 glassman@bishopmuseum.org

To request a back of house collection tour please fill out our online Natural Sciences Collection Tour Request Form

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Bishop Museum’s Natural Science Department includes a significant Ichthyology collection, begun in 1889 with a small sampling of fishes from off the west coast of North America by the US Fish Commission vessel Albatross. From that modest beginning, the current collection contains over 40,000 cataloged lots (more than 102,000 specimens) obtained from expeditions throughout the twentieth century through today. Collection holdings are from all of the major island groups and tropical regions of the Indo-Pacific. Although the primary emphasis is coral reef species, deep benthic and epipelagic fishes of the central Pacific and the freshwater native fishes of the Hawaiian Islands are also represented.
The collection holds virtually all of the known species of reef and shore fishes in the Indo-Pacific region. Also, it is the best maintained, documented, and identified collection of Indo-Pacific fish species in the world, with numerous collecting sources. It is particularly well known for material collected and studied by John E. Randall, one of the most prolific and widely respected fish researchers in the region, who began working in the collection in 1965 and a half-century later continues to publish on fish systematics and biogeography. Dr. Richard L. Pyle continues to add to the collection with an emphasis on collecting specimens from deep coral reef ecosystems (so-called mesophotic coral ecosystems, or the coral-reef “twilight zone”), using advanced diving technology.
Bishop Museum also holds the world’s first Megamouth, the most surprising and famous shark discovery of the twentieth century, scientifically known as Megachasma pelagios, the great yawner of the open ocean. Megamouth sharks are deep water plankton feeders, rarely seen in the wild by humans.
In addition, the collection also houses over 20,000 large-format color images of prepared specimens and 35-mm underwater photographs. The collection is fully digitized, with complete and annotated records for all specimens entered in the database, and many of the film images scanned. The management systems employed by the Museum are maintained according to the latest and most complete transactions and collections models and national standards.

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