Biological sciences collection

Our biological sciences collections encompass a diverse range of fauna, from parasites to whales. Over three million animal specimens have been collected in the last 150 years through systematic surveys and collecting trips, donations and acquisitions.

In more recent years these collections have been augmented by what is now the largest tissue collection in the Southern Hemisphere, the Australian Biological Tissue Collection (ABTC). Access to material from the ABTC is managed through the ABTC Grant Policy

Our collections focus on South Australia and serve as our library of life. They allow us to examine the diversity and distribution of South Australian fauna and the changes in their circumstances over time.

A number of these collections can now be accessed online. If you would like to find out more about our collections you can access the Atlas of Living Australia here.

All animals collected by scientists for the Museum are collected under scientific collecting permits.

Temporary closure

The Natural Sciences Collections of the South Australian Museum will be reducing services from now (October 2023), leading to a complete closure from late November 2023.  The closure is expected to last until mid-2024.

The staff of the Natural Sciences collections need this time for essential audit work, which unfortunately means we can no longer offer normal levels of service.  Services we will not be able to offer during this closure include: visits to collections, new donation/accessions of specimens, new loan requests, new registration number requests, tissue requests, and destructive analysis requests.

We will still accept loan returns.  Visitors with pre-existing bookings will be honoured.

Services will resume when collection audits are completed.

Collections affected by this suspension of services include: Marine Invertebrates, Terrestrial Invertebrates (including Arachnology and Entomology), Ichthyology, Herpetology, Mammalogy, Ornithology, Australian Biological Tissue Collection, Australian Helminth Collection, Palaeontology, and Mineralogy.

If you have further questions, please email

biological tissues in test tubes

Biological tissues

The Australian Biological Tissue Collection (ABTC) was the first frozen tissue collection in any Australian museum and is one of the largest wildlife tissue collections in the world.

a group of bird specimens stored in a drawer


This collection consists of approximately 62,000 specimens.

A spiky fish specimen


The Museum’s ichthyology collection has a strong regional focus, with freshwater fishes of southern and central Australia and Southern Ocean fishes well represented.

Two taxidermied tasmanian tigers in a storage container


The mammal collection comprises more than 26,000 specimens.

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Marine invertebrates

The Marine invertebrates collection is currently represented by 23 phyla and holds more than one million specimen lots including 1,700 holotypes, 11,300 secondary types, 33,000 registered lots and 1,400 microscope slide preparations.

Parasites stored in glass jars in the South Australian Museum's collection


Whether we like it or not, most animals — including humans — share their bodies with parasites such as worms, fleas, lice and ticks.

Reptile specimens preserved in jars

Reptiles and amphibians

Herpetology, a term derived from the Greek word for ‘creeping animals’, is the scientific study of reptiles and amphibians.

A scorpion preserved in a glass jar in the South Australian Museum's spiders, scorpions and ticks collection

Spiders, scorpions & ticks

Arachnids comprise the fascinating eight-legged terrestrial invertebrates and include spiders, scorpions, pseudoscorpions, harvestmen, ticks and mites.

terrestrial invertebrate specimens in the South Australian Museum collection

Terrestrial invertebrates

The Entomology and Collembola Collections at the South Australian Museum are comprised of animals in the classes Insecta (insects) and Collembola.


Marine life beneath Edithburgh jetty, South Australia: Fan worm (Sabellastarte australiensis) on jetty pile with Porcupine fish (Diodon nicthemerus).

A drawer of bird eggs in the Birds Collection in the Museum's Science Centre where many of our scientists work.

Fish Collection Manager, Ralph Foster, retrieving a billfish specimen preserved in a tank containing ethanol.

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