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The collection is constantly growing. At the end of 2008, we have 358,246 juvenile and adult specimens in 46,528 lots, representing some 4,188 species in 1,393 genera and 328 families. About 25% of the lots are freshwater fishes, mainly from the states of Washington, Oregon, and Alaska. The remaining 75% are marine fishes collected primarily from the eastern North Pacific, from the Aleutian Islands to Baja California, and from the western tropical Pacific, from Christmas Island to Guam and the Philippines. The collection also includes smaller numbers of lots from many other locations around the world. All specimens are stored in glass jars or stainless steel tanks containing 70% ethanol preservative.

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Approximately 324 lots of cleared and stained specimens, representing 203 species in 63 families, are also available. These are stored in full strength glycerin and maintained separately from the main collection. These skeletal preparations are augmented by an extensive library of X-rays of North Pacific fishes. Begun in 1981, this library now includes some 765 X-rays, including representatives of 135 species in 66 families. We also have a growing dry skeleton collection, most of which has been donated by local archaeologists wanting to make their reference collections available to the public.

Learn more about the history of the UW Fish Collection!

Early Life History

Our early life history collection includes 80,713 lots and is growing rapidly. Fifty-three families, 130 genera, and 181 species (including 35 identified only to "type") are represented. Most lots were taken in the eastern North Pacific, primarily from the Gulf of Alaska, the Bering Sea, and the U.S. Pacific Northwest Coast. Approximately 90% of the lots were collected between 1965 and 2000 by the Alaska Fisheries Science Center of the National Marine Fisheries Service, but significant material has also come to us from the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, the International Pacific Halibut Commission, and the Vancouver Public Aquarium. Habitats ranging from the extreme nearshore over reefs to offshore, oceanic waters are represented.

The 21,167 lots of eggs are stored in glass vials of 3% buffered formalin. Lots taken together in a haul are frequently stored in the same vial, so the egg collection is arranged by year, cruise, station, haul, etc. The 59,546 lots of larvae are stored in 70% ethanol. All lots are stored in separate vials and the collection is arranged phylogenetically. The entire ELH collection is housed in cardboard trays and wooden drawers within air-tight, light-proof cabinets.

Otolith Collection

In 2012, a National Science Foundation grant allowed for the transfer and integration of the Alaska Fisheries Science Center (AFSC) otolith collection. This collection is comprised of roughly 2.4 million pairs of fish otoliths (inner ear bones used to determine age, among other uses) representing 83 species in 41 genera and 17 families, collected by AFSC personnel over the past 40 years in conjunction with North Pacific Groundfish Observer programs and annual shelf and slope surveys along the west coast of the U.S., from California to Alaska, and from the Gulf of Alaska, Aleutian Islands, Bering Sea, and Pacific sector of the Arctic Ocean. Requests to borrow otoliths are welcome. All loan requests will be reviewed with AFSC personnel. Otoliths collected from surveys are now available to search online. Otoliths collected by Observers will be available soon.  More information about otoliths and how they are analyzed can be found on the Alaska Fisheries Science Center Age and Growth Program website.

Search the Otolith Collection