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Department of Vertebrate Zoology

Division of Amphibians & Reptiles

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

The Division of Amphibians and Reptiles lends specimens from its research collections for scientific and educational purposes that are consistent with the curatorial policies of the Division and with the goals and objectives of the National Museum of Natural History and the Smithsonian Institution.

Loans of all herpetological specimens require a formal request.  The request for specimens should be on institutional letterhead and specifically identify the specimens requested.  The letter should include sufficient information about the research project and the intended use of the specimens so that an evaluation of the request can be made by the curatorial staff in the Division of Amphibians and Reptiles.  Graphic files (jpg, pdf) of the signed letterhead request may be sent as an e-mail attachment to expedite the request.  E-mail addresses are available on individual staff pages. Requests are reviewed by the curators (Rayna C. Bell, Kevin de Queiroz, Roy W. McDiarmid) or the collection manager (Addison Wynn).  Approval will be based on the following criteria:

  • Scientific merit and feasibility of the project
  • Rarity of the species and representation in our collections
  • Condition of the specimen(s)
  • Qualifications of the investigators
  • Status of outstanding loans, and
  • Previous loan history.

Loans are made only to institutions and in care of a permanent staff member who assumes full responsibility for the use, storage, and safe, prompt return of borrowed material.  Loan requests from students must be co-signed by their major professor or other professional staff member, who thereby assumes full responsibility for the loan.

Loans may not be transferred from the borrower to another individual without prior written permission from the Division of Amphibians and Reptiles.  Similarly, specimens may not be transported to a different address without previous approval.

Usually, no more than one-half of our total specimens for a species will be lent at a time.  The remaining specimens may be requested but will not be sent until the first loan has been returned.  Our standard loan period is six months for non-type material and two months for type specimens.  Extensions of loans should be requested in a letter or an e-mail message before the loan’s due date.  Uncatalogued material, unprocessed specimens, and specimens under study by staff or other researchers normally are not available as a loan.

Specimens may not be altered in any way (including dissections for sex determination) without explicit written permission from the Division of Amphibians and Reptiles.  Any products resulting from an approved alteration (e.g., stomach contents, skeletal preparations, cleared and stained preparations, hemipenial preparations, SEM stubs, histological slides, etc.) are regarded as part of the specimen and must be returned to the USNM with appropriate labels or documentation, including the date of the alteration and the USNM catalog number.

Type specimens may be lent at the discretion of the curators.  In general, types are lent only when required for resolution of nomenclatural problems and for no more than a two month period.

Requests that involve the alteration of specimens (e.g., dissection), requests for the loan of type specimens, and any loan requests deemed unusual are circulated to all curators for joint approval.

Researchers may freely use data (including geographic coordinates, specific collecting locality, date of collection, collector, etc.) associated with a specimen during their investigation and in resulting publications.  Incorporation of all or a substantial portion of the specimen data in any publicly available data base (e.g., compact disc, web site) is not permitted without written authorization from the Division of Amphibians and Reptiles, National Museum of Natural History.  We request that investigators using USNM specimens and associated data bring to our attention any questionable localities, misidentifications, or other presumed errors so that we can amend our collection records.

The National Museum of Natural History (USNM is the approved abbreviation for referencing specimens at the National Museum of Natural History) should be explicitly acknowledged in each publication that results from research on the specimens.  When feasible, we request that you send two reprints of each paper or one copy of any book that result from research on USNM specimens to the Division of Amphibians and Reptiles, National Museum of Natural History.

All borrowers must agree to abide by this loan policy.  The borrower’s signature on the loan invoice signifies such agreement.

Send requests for a loan to a curator (Rayna C. Bell, Kevin de Queiroz, Roy W. McDiarmid) or collection manager (Addison Wynn) at:

Division of Amphibians and Reptiles
MRC 162
PO Box 37012
National Museum of Natural History
Smithsonian Institution
Washington, DC  20013-7012

Loan Returns

Return of all loans approved by Bell, de Queiroz, and Wynn are to be sent to Robert Wilson. Return of all loans approved by McDiarmid are to be sent to James Poindexter II. Packages to either Wilson or Poindexter should be returned via courier service such as FedEx or UPS (not the postal system) to the following address:

(Name of either Robert Wilson or James Poindexter II)
Division of Amphibians & Reptiles
Museum Support Center
4210 Silver Hill Road
Suitland, MD 20746


(rev. May 2010)