About 92% of the collection consists of Australian species and there is also a large collection of foreign mammals, many of zoo origin. Of the 337 species of mammals known to occur in Australia, 282 (83%) are represented in the collection.
There are 189 type specimens (15 holotypes, 174 other types). The mammal collection consists of specimens in many forms – i.e. skulls, articulated and disarticulated skeletons, mounted, flat and study skins, casts, organs, regurgitated owl pellets and bulk bone material, tissues for toxic contaminant analysis, photos, radiographs and reprints. Databases are also kept on whale sightings and strandings for which there are no specimens at the Museum.
The Mammalogy Collection includes over 1800 marine mammal specimens, the largest and most comprehensive in Australia. There are 45 species of marine mammals represented. There is an active programme of collecting carcasses from South Australia and elsewhere. One of the reasons that the Museum has been able to accumulate such an impressive collection of marine mammals is its Bolivar Facility.
The collection also has considerable historical importance because there are many species represented that are now threatened or extinct. In addition, there are many specimens from early expeditions in Australia, the subantarctic islands and Antarctica. Sir Douglas Mawson, Edgar R. Waite, Baldwin Spencer and Stirling have all contributed to the collection.
Other strengths include arid zone mammals and an extensive collection of bats. There are five mounted specimens of the thylacine (Tasmanian Tiger) that are considered to be the best in the world. A close working relationship with the Adelaide Zoo over many years has resulted in a diverse collection of well-prepared foreign mammal specimens that are on display. The primate collection is one of the best in Australia.
To find out more about our collections the data can now be accessed via the Online Zoological Collections in Australian Museums (OZCAM). OZCAM is the key data repository for fauna collections from Australian collections institutions. The same data can also be found at the Atlas of Living Australia (ALA) site, where a wide range of biological data from museums, herbaria and even microbiology collections are available online.
The Museum has many years' experience in the preparation of large specimens, particularly whales, dating back to the 1880s. In the early 1980s a custom-built preparation facility was opened at the sewerage works at Bolivar. This is the best equipped facility for preparing large skeletons in the Southern Hemisphere. At present the Museum processes up to 40 marine mammals each year and in addition, does contract preparation for other institutions and private firms. The Facility is also available for hire.
About the Facility
In 1996 a large building was added to the Bolivar Facility to accommodate the whale and dolphin collections of skulls, skeletons and baleen. The massive size of the bones and sheer number of specimens are always a ‘hit’ when showing visitors around the Facility.