herpetological collection

Today is World Turtle Day!

We’re shell-ebrating turtles all day today, and you can too! Here are some links to get you caught up:

Happy World Turtle Day!


California Lyre Snake (Trimorphodon lyrophanes)

One of the most interesting snakes in my small collection. Lyre Snakes are medium sized, rear-fanged snakes that range in the Southwestern United States and into Mexico. Nocturnal and mildly venomous, these snakes prey primarily on lizards and small rodents.

This specimen is housed in an front-opening, glass display tank with under-tank heating. At night, an infrared heat bulb is turned on so that the snake can be observed. 


Description of new reptiles, or imperfectly known to the collection of the Natural History Museum and remarks on the classification and characteristics of reptiles; By Duméril, Henri Auguste André, 1812-1870 National Museum of Natural History (France)
Via Flickr:
Publication info Paris: Museum of Natural History, 1852-1856 

BHL Collections: Smithsonian Libraries


Individual specimens may hold great beauty in the eye of the uninitiated observer, but for scientists, the real wonder lies in the connections that inspire research questions. In this episode of Shelf Life, Herpetology Curator Darrel Frost talks taxonomy—the science of classification.


This week, a team of vertebrate specialists from the Museum—Brett Benz, Chris RaxworthyPaul Sweet, and Neil Duncan—are heading out to one of the most remote areas in the world in search of new species and specimens on the Explore21 Papua New Guinea expedition.

They are following in the footsteps of biologist Ernst Mayr, who made the first trip to New Guinea on behalf of the Museum in 1927. The Pacific island, which today consists of Indonesian provinces in the west and the country of Papua New Guinea in the east, has a disproportionately rich flora and fauna: about 7 percent of the world’s species live in an area that is only approximately 0.5 percent of the Earth’s land mass.

Assuming his laptop survives the rain and humidity, team member Paul Sweet will be blogging intrepidly from the field—and finding his way from underneath dense canopy cover to send back posts over a satellite phone. Sweet answered a few questions on the eve of the team’s departure. 

Why Papua New Guinea? What do you hope to find?

We’re undertaking intensive biodiversity surveys in one of the most remote and least studied regions of the globe: the Strickland-Lagaip Divide in Papua New Guinea. We will be collecting birds, mammals, herps [reptiles and amphibians], as well as their parasites and viruses. We’re anticipating discovering new species of reptiles and amphibians, parasites, and viruses. Current estimates are that less than half of the amphibian species in Papua New Guinea have been discovered.

What are some of the more unusual animals you expect to see on this trip?

Perhaps the strangest mammal we may encounter is the long-beaked echidna, a spiny monotreme— a mammal that lays eggs. We may also see some of the many diverse marsupials such as tree kangaroos, bandicoots, quolls, and dunnarts. The fruit bats known as flying foxes that occur in New Guinea are some of the world’s largest.

Read the complete interview on the Museum blog