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Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
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Department of Vertebrate Zoology

Division of Fishes

Carl Hansen
© Smithsonian Institution

The fish collection was established in the mid 1800's, with the first entry in the specimen catalog ledgers recorded on December 15, 1856, for a sucker, Catostomus hudsonius, collected by S.F. Baird at Lake George, New York, in 1850. A summary of the history of the fish collection from 1856 through 1956 was published in Copeia, volume 1961 (pages 120-123), by Leonard P. Schultz.

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Preserved Fish Specimens
Chip Clark © Smithsonian Institution
The collections have great historical importance, containing, for example, marine fishes from the Wilkes Expedition and from the extensive U.S. Bureau of Fisheries trawling expeditions conducted by the Blake, Albatross, Fish Hawk and other ships in the late 1800's and early 1900's. North American freshwater fishes collected on the Mississippi-Pacific Railroad and Mexican Boundary Surveys in the 1850's and by David Starr Jordan and his students and colleagues from the 1860's to the 1920's are also included in our collections.

The collections are worldwide in coverage. We have the world's largest holdings of Indo-Pacific marine shore fishes and extensive coverage from freshwaters of both North and South America. The collection continues to grow as specimens are added from parts of the world where the fish faunas are poorly known. The Division maintains one of the world's largest collections of type specimens (important specimens on which taxonomic names are based), with over 19,000 lots housed in the collection.

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