The mammal collection comprises more than 26,000 specimens. The specimens are in the form of articulated and disarticulated skeletons, mounted, flat and study skins, baleen, organs, bulk bone material and regurgitated owl pellets.

There are also tissue samples for toxic contaminant and pathology analysis, photographs, radiographs and reprints of scientific publications. Databases and photographs of whale and dolphin sightings and strandings are also maintained.

The majority of the collection consists of Australian species (92%). There is a large collection of foreign mammals, many originally from the Adelaide Zoo. Of the 337 species of mammals known to occur in Australia, around 83% are represented in the collection. The oldest specimen is of a South Australian numbat collected in 1863.

The Mammal Collection houses 189 type specimens (15 holotypes, 174 other types). These are the original specimens upon which newly-described animals are based.

The Museum has been able to accumulate an impressive collection of marine mammals because of the research interests of present and past Curators and Directors — over 2000 specimens representing 45 different species. This subset of the Mammal Collection is the largest and most comprehensive in Australia. The cetacean component of the marine mammal collection is stored at the Museum’s Bolivar facility.

The collection also has considerable historical importance because there are many species represented that are now threatened or extinct. There are also many specimens from early expeditions in Australia, the subantarctic islands and Antarctica. Sir Douglas Mawson, Edgar R. Waite, Baldwin Spencer and Edward Charles Stirling, to name a few, have all contributed to the collection.

Other strengths include arid zone mammals and an extensive collection of bats. The Museum was a close partner in the Biological Survey of South Australia for over 30 years and many voucher specimens now held in the Mammal Collection came from this very important program.

A close working relationship with the Zoos SA over many years has resulted in a diverse collection of well-prepared native and foreign mammal specimens many of which are on display. The South Australian Museum has five mounted specimens of the thylacine (Tasmanian Tiger) that are considered to be the best in the world. The primate collection is one of the best in Australia.

The Mammal collection can be seen in many parts of the Museum, in particular in the World Mammals Gallery, the South Australian Biodiversity Gallery and the main foyer near the Museum Café.

To find out more about our collections the data can 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.

Mammals facility at Bolivar

Bolivar facility

Working with the skeleton of an animal that is almost 20m long isn't easy. The Museum is home to a purpose-built facility for large skeleton preparation, which is one of the best equipped facilities for this work in the world. The Bolivar facility has helped the Museum develop the largest and most comprehensive whale and dolphin collection in Australia.

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Marine invertebrates