Inside the Collections: Ichthyology at AMNH

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This video is the first of a new series of behind-the-scenes looks at the collections at the American Museum of Natural History. In this video, Melanie Stiassny, Axelrod Research Curator in the Department of Ichthyology, takes us through the Museum's vast collection of fishes.

The Department of Ichthyology, one of the four departments within the Museum's Division of Vertebrate Zoology, houses a collection that comprises more than 2 million specimens from around the world, with a special focus on African, Australian, Central American, Chinese, and Malagasy fresh water fishes as well as Bahamian and Gulf of Mexican shore fishes. The department's three curators, as well as postdoctoral fellows, students and staff, regularly conduct fieldwork to add to these collections.

Stiassny has carried out studies throughout the world's tropical waters to research the evolution, behavior, and conservation of fishes and has played an active role in raising public awareness of the biodiversity and conservation crisis. Her current projects include an exploration, sponsored by the National Science Foundation, of the freshwater fishes and mussels of the Congo.

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Unfortunately, all or most of the fish specimens at the AMNH are preserved in 50% methanol (I believe) after having been fixed in formalin, making them worthless for molecular phylogenetic work.

And coelacanths being "one of the lineages leading to tetrapods?" Common, Melanie.

By darwinsdog (not verified) on 25 Jun 2010 #permalink

Maybe 70% methanol, and, as said previously, formalin fixed. Fortunately, some of the older collections went directly into alcohol without being formalin fixed, so DNA can still be recovered. She didn't show an area where there were compactors for moving shelves together and saving space. I don't know if they have compactors, but I would expect them to. The segment was obviously heavily edited and lacked transitions. Glad to see it anyway.

By Jim Thomerson (not verified) on 25 Jun 2010 #permalink