The New York State Museum fish collection holds over 73,000 lots of freshwater and marine fish, which include approximately 1,300,000 specimens. The oldest specimens are from the 1840s and material continues to be added each year. Approximately 63,000 lots are fish from the United States, most from New York State. Specimens in the collection are from nearly 17,000 different collecting localities. The collection houses fish specimens from about 20 countries and all seven continents.
Over 1,300 species from over 600 genera and nearly 200 families are represented in the collection. Most specimens are stored in ethyl alcohol, but there are also skeletons, mounts and cleared and stained specimens. The collection also includes lots made up of scales removed from fish that were used in ageing studies; these scales are dry-preserved and date to the 1930s. Fish tissue, fixed in ethyl alcohol and frozen, is now accessioned into the collection as well; this material is suitable for genetic studies. There is an extensive larval fish collection; most of these specimens are from the Hudson River.
The NYSM fish collection is an active regional depository that has increased in number of lots by approximately 30% in the last 10 years, and continues to grow by accepting orphaned collections and voucher specimens from studies conducted by researchers in the Northeast. Although the focus of the collection is regional, specimens continue to be added to the collection from all parts of the world.
An important aspect of the collection is that it documents the historic distribution of fishes in the Northeast, and primarily New York, because it includes lots from synoptic surveys conducted in the 1890s, 1920-30s, 1950s, and from the 1970s to the present. The collection also holds extensive field notes associated with each of these surveys.
The oldest fish in the collection, a specimen of Amblyopsis spelaea collected in 1843, is one of nearly 300 lots that survive from the nineteenth century. We have been unable to ascertain the disposition of DeKay’s specimens from the 1830s. Fish specimens from a survey of Long Island conducted by T. H. Bean in the 1890s and specimens associated with Bean’s 1902 publication on New York fishes remain in the collection. In the collection are fishes from a second, smaller Long Island survey conducted by G.G. Scott in the early 1900s. Many specimens from the New York State watershed surveys of 1926-39 are also housed in the collection, as well as larval fish studied by M. P. Fish in the 1920s. This is a particularly important component of the collection because it is the result of the only statewide fish survey conducted in the state.
This collection is housed at the Biological Survey Laboratory at the Rensselaer Technology Park in Troy, New York. Associated information is catalogued in Specify. All lots are assigned a sequential catalog number. The collection is organized phylogenetically.