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· Amphibians & Reptiles
· Arthropods
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Welcome to the
Museum of Southwestern Biology

The Museum of Southwestern Biology (MSB) is a research and teaching facility in the Department of Biology, University of New Mexico. MSB houses collections of vertebrates, arthropods, plants and genomic materials from the American West, Central and South America, and from throughout the world. The MSB consists of ten divisions, and one special program (the USGS Arid Lands Field Station.


The Museum of Southwestern Biology’s collections are spatially extensive and temporally intensive and, thus, are among the finest biological resources currently available to scientists and educators who are interested in tackling tough environmental and health issues facing society. Our well-maintained and web-accessible archives and associated databases are poised to contribute significantly both to understanding the complexity of biological diversity and ecosystem function on local, regional, and global, scales, and to addressing critical biological problems (e.g., emerging pathogens, habitat degradation, pollution, climate change, invasive species).


1) Division of Amphibians and Reptiles: >86,602 specimens, mostly from the Southwestern United States, but with substantial numbers from other states, Mexico, the Caribbean, and the Galapagos Islands. Our herpetological collections represent the largest collection of New Mexican specimens and the second largest collection of specimens from the “Four Corner” states;

2) Division of Arthropods: >200,000 preserved specimens, many from the southwestern U.S. and northern Mexico, but also throughout the world, with substantial concentrations of Arachnida, Myriapoda, Coleoptera, Diptera, Hemiptera, Hymenoptera, Lepidoptera, Orthoptera and Siphonoptera. We are the repository and processing center for two NSF-LTER programs, Jornada Basin and Sevilleta sites, both in New Mexico, and a number of National Park Service inventory projects from across the Southwest;

3) Division of Birds: >30,000 specimens which makes us the largest single collection in the American Southwest and puts us on par with all the collections in Texas, combined. We are also the only bird collection in the Southwest with a full-time Collection Manager;

4) Division of Fishes: >85,825 cataloged lots (~3.7 million specimens) making it the largest university-based fish collection in the southwestern US. The collection emphasizes long-term monitoring, ecology, and life-history of fishes inhabiting imperiled aquatic ecosystems of the desert Southwest;

5) Division of Genomic Resources: a cryogenic archive of tissue samples from vertebrates, invertebrates, parasites and DNA from other museum divisions and outside collections, it contains multiple kinds of tissue from  >170,000 organisms and is worldwide in scope;

6) The UNM Herbarium: ca. 115,000 accessioned specimens of mainly vascular plants collected in New Mexico and surrounding southwestern states;

7) Division of Mammals: contains >230,000 specimens, mostly from western North America, Central and South America, and Asia, but with substantial holdings from elsewhere. Worldwide, this is the largest mammal collection centered at a university and among the 8 largest mammal collections overall;

8) Division of Parasites: contains 30,000 specimens donated by Robert Rausch and is dedicated to the concept of ‘integrated’ research collections that simultaneously provide information of pathogens, parasites, and hosts for comprehensive study of epidemiology, pathology, ecology and co-evolution of infectious diseases and hosts.  This is an emerging area of research that will undoubtedly generate enormous student and researcher interest;

9) United States Geological Survey (USGS) Biological Surveys Collection: includes 48,000 vertebrate specimens, primarily from public lands in the western United States. The collection serves as a repository for specimens taken in support of Federal research by USGS and other agencies within the Department of Interior.

10) Natural Heritage New Mexico: maintains databases on occurrences of native New Mexican plants and animals of conservation concern; largest database contains >23,500 observation records. Information is used by policy makers, natural resource managers, and government and business leaders to support conservation and land management decisions.


These world-class collections are used not only to investigate our planet but also to train and inspire the next generation of environmental scientists.

Each division or program sets its own policies for visitors, researchers and data inquiries. For further information visit the appropriate division or program web pages.




images of native animals and plants
Short-horned lizard Phrynosoma hernandesii (I. Murray), Organ Mountains (M. Weisenberger), Escobaria organensis (T. Todsen)

msb and bird image
Praying Mantis (S. Davidson), Coachwhip Masticophis flagellum (I. Murray), CERIA (J. Mygatt)