Integration of the University of Illinois Museum of

Natural History Collection


The University of Illinois Museum of Natural History mammal collection contained ca. 47,000 specimens collected from 1876-1989. It is worldwide in scope (40 countries and all continents except Antarctica) and very diverse taxonomically (20 orders, 249 genera, and 483 species are represented).


This collection represented a good portion of the life’s work of one of the most influential mammalogists of the late 20th Century, Donald Hoffmeister (Hoffmeister biography). Dr. Hoffmeister became Assistant Curator at the UIMNH in 1946 and remained at UI as either Curator or Director until his retirement in 1984.  Hoffmeister trained 14 doctoral and 18 masters students using this collection, including UNM’s current president, Dr. David Schmidly.


Table 1.  UIMNH specimen allocation summary.

NH Collection


Regional Division of Specimens



Southwestern United States, Alaska, South America



Northwestern United States, Great Basin, Mexico, Central America



Eastern and Southeastern United States, Canada, worldwide (except Central and South America)

In May 2006 the UIMNH collection was orphaned and the majority of specimens were transferred to 3 institutions (Field Museum of Natural History, the Monte Bean Life Science Museum at Brigham Young University, and the Museum of Southwestern Biology at the University of New Mexico) based on the regional strengths, existing infrastructure, and institutional support existing at those collections (Table 1).   Material from Illinois localities remains at the Illinois Natural History Survey  

The incorporation of the UIMNH collection was supported by a NSF Biological Research and Collections grant “Collaborative Proposal--Curation, Data Basing and Integration of the Orphaned Illinois Mammal Collection”  (0744025).

The 32,745 specimens integrated into the MSB represent 254 species from 108 genera and eleven orders, with the majority (29,122) in Rodentia (Fig. 1).


Specimens are primarily skin and skull preparations, but this accession also contains a large series of tanned pelts (Artiodactyla and Carnivora) and some fluid material.

Significant records of rare or restricted species (e.g. Sorex nanus, S. arizonae, Ochotona collaris, Zapus hudsonius) and large series from common genera (e.g. Peromyscus, Dipodomys, Microtus, Thomomys, Spermophilus, Myotis, Macrotus) voucher > 4000 localities, and provide excellent temporal and spatial depth for analyses of morphological variation.


The MSB accession primarily documents the mammalian diversity of the Southwestern United States and Alaska (Fig. 2) over the period 1890-1989 (Fig. 3).










Many biomes of the West (e.g. alpine, riparian corridors, Sonoran desert) and areas in the high latitudes are experiencing significant change due to anthropogenic activities and climate change (Schmidly 2002; Conroy et al., 2006) and hence, the collection is especially critical as a baseline for assessments of environmental change.

The collection served as the basis for many publications (Citations based on UIMNH specimens now deposited in the MSB) and a number of books by Hoffmeister (e.g. Mammals / A Guide to Familiar American Mammals, Handbook of Illinois Mammals, Mammals of the Grand Canyon, Mammals of Illinois), including the monumental Mammals of Arizona, arguably one of the finest state monographs of mammals completed and vouchered by the 22,400 Arizona specimens. 



Additionally, the collection contains critical historical records of mammals that are the focus of intensive federal management efforts of species extirpated from Arizona such as Mexican wolves (Canis lupus baileyi; n=29) and black-tailed prairie dogs (Cynomys ludovicianus arizonensis), and subspecies tied to threatened habitats (e.g., Tamiasciurus hudsonicus grahamensis).


The accession also contains a valuable series of specimens from 29 South American species (e.g. Callithrix jacchus, Galictis sp., Procyon cancrivorus, Bradypus tridactylus, Saccopteryx canescens, Noctillio leporinus), the majority of which were collected in Venezuela by L. Miller in 1950. These complement the existing large holdings of Latin American material (> 30,000 specimens) at MSB.


Nearly 500 specimens from Alaska enhance the growing MSB collections from high latitudes (> 17,000 specimens from Alaska, Canada, Siberia).


The collection has great taxonomic and systematic value, containing ten holotypes or paratypes of 7 North American taxa (Table 2). The collection is also historically important as it includes specimens collected by many of the early pioneers of mammalogy (e.g. Attwater, Burt, Cockrum, Hall, Keays, Kellogg, Taylor, Van Gelder).


Table 2. Type specimens transferred from the UIMNH to the MSB collection.







Leptonycteris curasoae sanborni

USA: AZ; Cochise co. 10 mi SSE Ft. Huachuca



Idionycteris phyllotis hualapaiensis

USA: AZ; Mohave co. 1 mi SW Union Pass



Idionycteris phyllotis hualapaiensis

USA: AZ; Mohave co. 1 mi SW Union Pass



Idionycteris phyllotis hualapaiensis

USA: AZ; Mohave co. 1 mi SW Union Pass



Idionycteris phyllotis hualapaiensis

USA: AZ; Mohave co. 1 mi SW Union Pass



Myotis auriculus apache

USA: AZ; Graham co. Snow Flat, Graham Mtn



Sorex arizonae

USA: AZ; Cochise co. 15 mi S Ft. Huachuca



Thomomys bottae carri

USA: AZ; Cochise co. NW Slope Carr Peak, Huachuca Mts



Thomomys bottae rufidulus

USA: AZ; Navajo co. 2 mi E Joseph City



Perognathus flavus goodpasteri

USA: AZ; Apache co. 2.75 mi NW Springerville