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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

Staff of the Division of Amphibians and Reptiles and their collaborators have accrued a large collection of amphibian and reptile tissue samples, the majority from cataloged voucher specimens.  In general, the samples are maintained primarily for staff research, either in-house or through collaborations at other institutions.  As a service to other investigators, tissue samples may be made available to qualified scientists who make specific requests.  The geographic scope of the tissue collection is focused on the New World; however, we also have important collections from Madagascar, Asia, and the Pacific.  Most samples were directly frozen at -80° C or below.  In some cases, samples were placed directly into 95% ETOH.  Samples from both storage methods are maintained at the National Museum of Natural History in ultra-cold freezers at -80° C.  All researchers requesting tissue samples from this collection are asked to comply with the following guidelines.


An informal inquiry by phone, e-mail, or letter may be used to determine whether genetic samples of particular taxa are available. After verifying availability of relevant samples, a formal request in writing should be submitted on institutional letterhead. Graphic files (jpg, pdf) of the signed letterhead request may be sent as an e-mail attachment to expedite the process. Loan requests from students must be co-signed by their major advisor or other professional staff member, who thereby assumes full responsibility for the loan/transfer. Requests should include the following:  

  • Brief Description of Research - Items to include are purpose, techniques, gene(s) to be studied, lab facilities, investigators involved and their experience, and expected significance of the study.
  • List of Material Requested - Please specify taxa, number of individuals, specimen numbers and/or localities (if relevant), tissue types, the amount of tissue needed, and the preferred form of preservation (e.g., frozen, 95% ETOH) for shipping.
  • Shipping Instructions - Please provide detailed instructions including an appropriate address (a street address is necessary for shipping through private carrier), contact phone numbers, and account number to be charged if the material is to be shipped by private carrier.
  • Recipients must acknowledge in their request that they agree to the conditions listed under Terms below.

Criteria for Approval

Each request will be evaluated and approval will be based on the following criteria:

  • The scientific value and feasibility of the project

  • The qualifications of the investigator(s)

  • Evidence of sufficient lab facilities

  • Rarity of specimens and opportunity for replacement

  • Approval of original collector(s)

  • Amount of tissue needed from each sample

  • Evidence that the applicants are contributing to the base of genetic resources available  for study by collecting, properly documenting, and depositing samples and voucher specimens in collections where they are available to others, or by otherwise supporting such collections.

All requests for tissues will be reviewed by Division of Amphibians and Reptiles staff, who have final discretion regarding approval or denial of all or part of the request.


Tissue transfers are made under the following conditions:

  • Samples will be used only for the purposes stated in the Description of Research.  The Description of Research may not be amended nor may the material be used for other purposes without written permission from the person authorizing the loan/transfer.

  • Neither the samples nor any part, extract, or product thereof may be given or loaned to another laboratory or investigator without written consent from the authorizing person.

  • The recipient should return any portion of the tissue sample not consumed by analysis to the Division of Amphibians and Reptiles.

  • No commercial use will be made of the tissue samples, nor license or patent applied for based on the samples or any information derived from them without written consent from the Division of Amphibians and Reptiles.  In some cases, commercial or restrictive use of the samples would violate terms of the permits under which they were collected.

  • Recipients will report the USNM (the approved acronym for referencing specimens at the National Museum of Natural History) catalog number for samples associated with USNM cataloged vouchers in every publication that results from use of the sample.  The National Museum of Natural History will be explicitly acknowledged in each publication that is based in part or entirely on data derived from our tissue samples.

  • When feasible, it is requested that two reprints of each paper or one copy of any book that results from research on USNM samples be sent to the Division of Amphibians and Reptiles, National Museum of Natural History.

  • Researchers are encouraged to deposit sequences derived from USNM specimens in GenBank or other public genetic databases.

  • Agreement to any other stipulations made as a condition of a particular transfer or exchange.

Initial questions and inquiries about tissue sample holdings should be addressed to:

Addison Wynn
Division of Amphibians and Reptiles
Smithsonian Institution
P.O. Box 37012
Washington, DC 20013-7012
Tel: 202-633-0737


(rev. September 2007)