The Mammalogy collections include more than 98,000 terrestrial and marine mammal specimens prepared as study skins, skulls, skeletons, tanned pelts, and fluid preserved bodies. Ancillary collections such as frozen tissues, bacula, and parasites are also maintained. Every taxonomic order of Mammalia and most families are represented in the collections.
The breadth and scope of our research collections make them important for the study of the origins and evolution of all the major groups of mammals. Our collections also document historical changes in marine and terrestrial biodiversity, both local and global. Among these documented changes are the effects of urbanization on mammal distribution. The assemblage of marine mammal specimens is the second largest in the world, with a particular emphasis on cetaceans from the eastern North Pacific and the Arctic Oceans. As a government designated repository for marine mammals, the collections document the changes in marine mammal distribution and the causes of those changes.
Other special strengths of the mammal collections include large holdings of Neotropical mammals; Old World fruit bats; strong collections of African mammals including more than 1,000 artiodactyls, many from areas where they no longer occur due to human disturbance and environmental change; and broad holdings of local species collected throughout Southern California. The largest natural object in the Museum’s collections is the 17 foot long, 2.5 ton skull from a blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus). The Museum also has three exhibition halls devoted to dioramas featuring large mammals from Africa and North America.