California Academy of Sciences Herpetology Department – San Francisco, California - Atlas Obscura

California Academy of Sciences Herpetology Department

Over 315,000 preserved amphibians and reptiles in jars. 


While most visitors to the California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park are ogling the albino alligator, those in the know are looking through the over 315,000 specimens from 175 countries that are housed in the Academy’s Herpetology Department.

This massive collection of reptiles and amphibians, which includes the Stanford collections transferred in 1962, was started by one Galapagos tortoise carapace specimen in 1853. It includes the the largest collection of Philippine amphibians and reptiles in the world. Over the last 160 years the collections has grown through donations and exhibitions.

Today the Herpetology Department has expeditions to Sao Tome and Principe (small islands off the west coast of Africa), Myanmar and China, and is viewable by appointment only for researchers and educational groups.

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