History of the Section

Amphibians and reptiles have been represented in the Museum in 19th century by just a few specimens and species. Most of them came to the Museum first through the Moscow Society of Naturalists and later due to the Society of Amateurs in Natural History, Anthropology, and Ethnography. An alcoholic specimen of tuatara Sphenodon punctatus bought in 1887 was the most valuable acquisition of those times.

A catalogue of herpetological collections published by N.M. Kulagin in 1888 serves as the sole source of information about their history and contents by the end of 19th century. It is indicated in that catalogue that the first relevant information appeared in the “Museum historiae Naturalis Universitatis Caesareae Mosquensis” in 1822. Further information can be found in an unpublished list prepared by Renar, and in the records of the Registrar book started in 1863.

At the bounds of the centuries most contribution to the herpetological collection was made by such well known zoologists as N.A. Bobrinskoy, K.A. Satunin etc. Very significant appeared to be herpetological specimens delivered to the Museum by N.V. Slyunin, I.V. Isaev, P.A. Burtsev from tropics.

In 1920-30s the key role in growth of herpetological collections belonged to Shibanov who collected himself in Central Asia and stimulated other zoologists to donate results of their field works to the Museum. Among most interesting acquisitions of those times were the specimens from North Caucasus and Transcaucasia.

Shibanov, as a Deputy Dean of Biological Faculty, initiated a new herpetological collection at the Department of Vertebrate Zoology. Although designed and used basically for teaching purposes, it grew quite rapidly and appeared finally to be of scientific importance. This collection was moved to the Museum in 1966.

Numerous expeditions in which staff of the Section participated were the most important sources of new materials during the last decades. Besides, researchers of Department of Vertebrate Zoology and of certain academic institutes donated very interesting materials.

Quite valuable materials come from Moscow Zoo, including rare tropical species. Amateur herpetologists also used to donate very interesting specimens from Africa, SE Asia, South America. Besides, of importance is more or less regular exchange of scientific specimens with foreign museums.