Natural History Specimen Collections




Roels, Oswald A.
Hildebrand, Henry H.
Rabalais, Nancy

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University of Texas Marine Science Institute, Port Aransas Marine Laboratory


The University of Texas Marine Science Institute, Port Aransas Marine Laboratory, Natural History Collection of Marine Organisms was initiated in the mid-1940's. Since that time specimens have been added from studies in the Gulf of Mexico, associated estuaries, and marine-influenced terrestrial habitats, with emphasis on the Texas and Mexico coasts. These studies were the baseline surveys for this area and have resulted in the collection of valuable marine organisms. The collection now holds approximately 5,000 catalogued specimens including all forms of biota, vertebrates, invertebrates, algae and flowering plants.

The collection includes the marine fish and invertebrate specimens of the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, incorporated into the UTMSI-PAML collection in 1976. This state collection, numbering 3,000, is composed primarily of Texas Gulf coast species of fish and invertebrates, representing baseline surveys conducted by the state fisheries biologists. With this collection are card catalogues by specimen number and phylogenetic order.

Other collections incorporated are those from R/V Oregon cruises (U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Bureau of Commercial Fisheries, exploratory fishing vessel), H. H. Hildebrand's faunal surveys of the brown and pink shrimp grounds , Whitten et al.'s faunal survey of Texas coast jetties , J. W. Hedgepeth’s specimens collected during numerous faunal surveys, tide trap studies, and vegetation and algal surveys. Noteworthy studies from which specimens have been added to the collection are listed in Table 1.

The museum collection is housed in an air-conditioned building in a room specifically designed for this collection. The present facility contains 924 square feet with 1089 square feet of shelf space, which can be trebled to accommodate BLM collections. There are at present 32 1' x 12' shelves, totaling 384 square feet; 194 18" x 12-1/2" shelves, totaling 303 square feet; and 120 11-1/2" x 42" shelves, totaling 402 5 square feet.

The collection is a working museum open to the scientific community; specimens are available on loan to members of this community. Specimens may be used by visiting researchers, graduate-level students, professors, and classes. Attached is an invoice form, "Invoice of Specimens" - a standard form used for loan of collection items.

The Port Aransas Marine Laboratory is committed to the continuing curation of specimens and will continue to provide the supplies necessary to maintain the natural history specimen collections. The University of Texas Marine Science Institute, Port Aransas Marine Laboratory is willing to incorporate the Bureau of Land Management collection into its collection. Funding is requested from BLM to obtain and incorporate all archived BLM specimens from the S.T.O.C.S. survey into the collection.


The Fish Collection described in this document was transferred in 1992 to the Fish Collection of the University of Texas at Austin in Austin (at that time administratively in the Texas Memorial Museum, but at the time of publication of this digital version of the document it is one ( of the Biodiversity Collections in the University's Biodiversity Center ( Thus, the data on the specimens in the Fish Collection described here are now included in the data published to GBIF ( and other global biodiversity data aggregators by the UT Biodiversity Center's Fish Collection. The same data are also included in the Fishes of Texas Project ( - Hendrickson, Dean A., and Adam E. Cohen. 2015. “Fishes of Texas Project Database (Version 2.0)” doi:10.17603/C3WC70). Some of the UTMSI Fish Collection specimens remained at the UT Marine Science Insitute on long-term loan from 1992 until sometime in 2017 when the MSI disposed of all remaining specimens (including also Invertebrates). Some were disposed of by a professional HazMat company, but many were apparently taken to the Smithsonian Institution's (USNM) division of Invertebrate Biology. The fate of fish specimens, however, remains unresolved, but the Ichthyology Division at USNM had no knowledge of them at the time this report was archived here. Dean A. Hendrickson, Curator of Ichthyology, UT Austin, May 1, 2019

LCSH Subject Headings


Roels, Oswald A., Henry H. Hildebrand, and Nancy Rabalais. 197x. Natural History Specimen Collections. University of Texas at Austin, Marine Science Institute, Port Aransas Marine Laboratory.