Graptemys gibbonsi, a holotype specimen in Carnegie Museum of Natural History’s fluid-preserved collection known as the Alcohol House
(Photo by Paul S. Freed)
by Kaylin Martin
Reptile and amphibian specimens are not the only things stored in 70% ethanol in Carnegie Museum of Natural History’s Alcohol House!
Departments such as Ornithology, Botany, and Mollusks preserve select specimens in fluid for further scientific use. This method preserves soft tissues that would otherwise need to be removed, maintains the natural three-dimensional shape, and slows down DNA degradation.
Fluid collections are more difficult to maintain, however, as they take up more space and have to be regularly monitored to prevent the specimens from drying out.
Keep an eye out for our future Alcohol House public tours to see these specimens up close and to meet collection managers.
Kaylin Martin is a curatorial assistant in the Section of Herpetology. She blogs about the collection in Carnegie Museum of Natural History’s historic Alcohol House, which is home to thousands of fluid-preserved specimens.
by Kaylin Martin
Red-eared sliders (Trachemys scripta elegans) are the most popular pet turtles in the United States. This one in Carnegie Museum of Natural History’s Alcohol House has two heads. Due to extensive trading and people releasing their pets into the wild, red-eared sliders are listed as one of the world’s 100 most invasive species.
Kaylin Martin is a curatorial assistant in the Section of Herpetology. She blogs about the collection in Carnegie Museum
of Natural History’s historic Alcohol House, which is home to thousands of fluid-preserved specimens.
Away from the public eye, scientists at Carnegie Museum of Natural History have access to more than 200,000 jarred, labeled, and perfectly preserved specimens stored in The Alcohol House.
The three-story storage room has been a part of the museum for more than 100 years and is a herpetologist’s dream. It boasts about 65,000 salamanders, 54,000 frogs, 29,500 snakes, 29,500
turtles, and 30,500 lizards, all preserved in ethyl alcohol.
A past curator of the Alcohol House, C. J. McCoy, said the room is like “a three-way hybrid between a pickle warehouse, a reference library, and a mail-order establishment.”
Scientists use the specimens for their research, and can compare the size, shape, and extremities of reptiles and amphibians from 100 years ago with those found today and identify new species.