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MVZ Tissue Collection

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The MVZ tissue collection and associated evolutionary genetics laboratory were established in 1973 with initial funding from the National Science Foundation. It now ranks as one of the largest such collections, housing over 50,000 tissue specimens that include 16700 amphibians, 5600 reptiles, 9700 birds, and 19000 mammals. The majority of samples have voucher specimens that are housed either in the MVZ or in other institutions. Tissues are routinely preserved from specimens accessioned by the Museum. Samples are stored either as frozen tissue in ultralow freezers, or as non-frozen tissue in ethanol or buffer. In many cases, specimens are represented by multiple vials with the same or different storage methods.

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Taxonomic and geographic representation of samples primarily reflects the research interests of MVZ faculty, research staff, and graduate students. Thus, the mammal tissue collection is especially strong for New World rodents and bats, the bird collection is dominated by New World passerines, and the herp collection is strongest in New World and Old World salamanders, lizards, and snakes. Over the past few years, expeditions throughout the world (including such places as Afghanistan and Madagascar) have resulted in significant acquisitions of new taxa. In addition, general salvage of specimens from various sources has and continues to provide a major source of new material.

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Use of the MVZ tissue collection has grown rapidly since the early-mid 1990s. We attribute this trend both to online access to MVZ data on tissue holdings, and to advances in molecular-based research. Requests for tissues range from phylogeographic and systematic studies to epidemiological applications such as the tracking of hantavirus. In addition, DNA obtained from traditional specimen material (e.g., skin, hair, feathers, toe pads, bone) represents an increasingly important resource for genetic studies, especially those with a historical component such as the impact of malaria infection on Hawaiian birds.


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