Path of a Reptile or Amphibian
In the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology
The green pathway shows how amphibians and reptiles, like the salamander in the picture, have entered the research collection. Click on a number in the map below to learn what happens at each stage.
Most salamanders and other amphibians and reptiles are preserved in formalin in the field and arrive in plastic bags. In the field, a tag with the collector's number is tied to the specimen, and tissue samples are taken and preserved in liquid nitrogen or special buffer. The specimens are brought back to the museum in their fixing trays or plastic bags, and the tissues are brought in their tissue vials either in the liquid nitrogen tanks or buffers.
Salamanders and other fluid specimens are re-housed in jars of ethanol. Tissue samples are typically frozen but may also remain in fresh buffer. If the specimens are brought back alive, then the process of preservation and tissue sampling occurs in the lab.
With specimen and field note catalog (including the collector's number) in hand, an accession number is assigned from the specimen database.
The collector usually determines the specimen's genus and species, and the curator typically confirms these identifications. A spreadsheet is filled out from collector notes with date, locality, coordinates, type and parts of specimen and other information. After the spreadsheet information is entered into the database entry form, an MVZ catalog number is assigned to each specimen. When all the data is checked with the specimens, it is uploaded to the online database. Geographic coordinates are added to the record. All coordinates are then verified by a geo-referencing team who makes sure that the location is correct and adds a maximum uncertainty radius.
An individual tag with the MVZ catalog number is tied to each specimen; tags made for tissue specimens are inserted into their vials. A taxon and locality label is made and attached to the jar.
Tissue samples are stored either as frozen tissue in ultralow freezers, or as non-frozen tissue in ethanol or buffer. Specimens may be represented by multiple vials with the same or different storage methods.
The Bolitoglossa salamander is put in the fluid preservation rooms of the collection, which is organized by species, alphabetically arranged by family and genus, and within that, by geography.