Northern Madtom by M. Thomas


The INHS fish collection contains more than 1.3 million catalogued specimens and  170,000 lots, which makes it one of the largest collections of preserved fishes in the US, and the 6th largest collection of Neotropical fishes in North America.

Represented are about 170 families and over 2,500 species. The value of the collection is greatly enhanced by the large number of old specimens, many of which were collected in the late 1800’s from areas where they no longer occur. The type collection contains 1220 specimens representing 93 nominal species. Name-bearing type material consists of 26 holotypes (24 nominal species, 2 subspecies), 5 lectotypes, and 5 series of syntypes (39 specimens). Additional type material includes paratypes of 125 nominal species (1,198 specimens).

We also maintain a tissue collection that contains over 1000 high quality tissues from a portion of our vouchered specimens. Detailed data about our holdings may be obtained by contacting the curator,  Dr. Chris Taylor.


S.A. Forbes

A large part of the Illinois Natural History Fish Collection comes from specimens collected from 1880 to 1905 for S.A. Forbes and R.E. Richardson’s “The Fishes of Illinois” published in 1908 and from specimens collected from 1950 to 1978 for P.W. Smith’s “The Fishes of Illinois” published in 1979. Thousands of specimens have been added from other areas of North and South America in the past few decades. The collection contains representatives from 48 of the 50 states and many countries including: Angola, Antigua, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, England, Guyana, Indonesia, Lebanon, Mexico, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Puerto Rico, Romania, Russia, Thailand, Trinidad, Uruguay, Venezuela, and Yugoslavia. The geographic scope of the collection is about 58% from Illinois, 28% from elsewhere in North America, 13% from South America, and 1% from the rest of the world, including Antarctica.

Integration of the Orphaned Southern Illinois University Fluid Vertebrate Collections into the Illinois Natural History Survey Collections.
Since its foundation, the mission of the Illinois Natural History Survey Collections is to acquire, conserve, share, and interpret collections and associated information pertaining to the biotic resources of Illinois and the diversity of life. With the recent acquisition of the Southern Illinois University Fluid Vertebrate Collections, more than 65,000 fish lots have not only complemented the number of specimens but extended the geographic coverage and increased the diversity of fishes preserved at INHS. Completed in spring of 2023, the collection integration project has added about 200 fish species previously not represented at INHS, but found in North America, South America, or other continents and regions of the world. Additionally, newly digitized data of more than 650,000 fish specimens mainly from the Midwestern United States and South America are available to researchers and students all around the world via our online database and iDigBio.

Location and Access

The collection is housed on the basement floor of the Natural Resources Building on the campus of the University of Illinois.

Access to the collection by qualified researchers, normally available from 8:30am–5pm M–F may be arranged by contacting the collection manager, Dr. Enrique Santoyo-Brito or curator, Dr. Chris Taylor.

Specimen loans and data requests

Specimen loans are available to qualified researchers.  Loans are generally made for a period of one year, renewable upon request. To request a loan or data please contact Dr. Chris Taylor or Dr. Enrique Santoyo-Brito.

Limited data for the entire collection holdings are accessible via online database.  For complete locality data, contact the curator, Dr. Chris Taylor.

Taillight Shiner by M. Thomas