Larvae Collection
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Gray Treefrog Tadpole
The tadpole of the Gray Treefrog

The Yale Peabody Museum’s Division of Vertebrate Zoology has within its herpetology holdings a collection of amphibian larvae from many taxa and geographic areas, spanning approximately one century. These specimens are typically cataloged as lots, so that many individuals comprise a single catalogued unit.

As a result of a 2003 grant from the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection to sort this collection, and to identify each specimen as to species and developmental stage, the Division can now say that its collection of amphibian larvae contains 1,460 specimen lots (over 9,000 individual larvae) representing at least 46 taxa from at least 15 countries.

Perhaps what is most impressive about the amphibian larvae collection is that it has 657 lots of the Eastern Spadefoot Toad tadpole (Scaphiopus holbrookii) that number well over 5,000 individuals, collected from a few sites in Connecticut by Stanley C. Ball in the 1930s. This species is nearly extinct in Connecticut now, and even at the time of his studies Dr. Ball was aware of its decline. Many of his study sites did not have water long enough for tadpoles to complete metamorphosis. Even more of these ponds were drained or filled in by municipal organizations within a 3-year period of Ball’s studies. In his letters and notes he often lamented that this species might not survive, and he worked as hard as he could to understand the animal and to teach appreciation for it. Today all of Dr. Ball’s original study sites are lost to development. Only the specimens he collected remain as proof that this amazing species once lived there.

See also Postilla 232, “A Catalog of Larval Amphibia in the Yale Peabody Museum,” G.J. Watkins-Colwell and T.A.A.M. Leenders, 2004.

The Yale Peabody Museum’s collections are available to legitimate researchers for scholarly use. Loans are issued to responsible individuals at established institutions. Loans and access to the collection can be arranged through the Collections Manager.

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