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Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
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Department of Vertebrate Zoology

Division of Amphibians & Reptiles

Hyalinobatrachium pellucidum
Hyalinobatrachium pellucidum Ecuador, Napo Province. Photographed by Roy McDiarmid

History of the Name

During the early 1880s, the division was known by several names, including the Department of Herpetology and the Department of Reptiles. By 1885, the title Department of Reptiles and Batrachians had become standard.

In 1897, the National Museum was reorganized into three departments: Biology, Geology, and Anthropology. Reptiles and Batrachians then became a division of the Department of Biology.

Tupinambis teguixin

Tupinambis teguixin Ecuador, Pastaza Province
Photograph by William W. Lamar.

Another administrative reorganization occurred in 1947 with separation of Biology into the Department of Botany and the Department of Zoology. At that time, the Division was renamed Reptiles and Amphibians.

The Department of Zoology grew into an increasingly unwieldy organization and was divided in 1964 into three separate departments: Entomology, Invertebrate Zoology, and Vertebrate Zoology. Reptiles and Amphibians was a division of the latter department. These departments existed until January 2001 when the three were combined with Botany to form the Department of Systematic Biology. In 2004 the Department of Systematic Biology was split into multiple departments and Reptiles and Amphibians became a division of the Department of Zoology, and in 2005 became a division in the Department of Vertebrate Zoology.

In 1983, the Division's name changed to Amphibians and Reptiles in order to place the two taxa in alphabetical and "phylogenetic" order.


(rev. Jul 2018)