Tulane’s collection of fish, preserved in jars and stacked on shelves, is perhaps the largest of any in the world. University biology professor Royal D. Suttkus began gathering and researching the fish specimens in the 1950’s, and today the lab contains more than eight million fish.
Millions of fish and thousands of species
Today, Tulane’s fish collection is managed by Dr. Henry Bart, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology. He explains that the institute has kept meticulous records since its beginnings more than 70 years ago. And the eight million plus fish that are stored at the Belle Chase, Louisiana facility represent 2,500 different species. But that is still only a drop in the bucket of the estimated 40,000 species that inhabit the earth. Tulane’s focus is primarily on fish that live in the Gulf of Mexico region and the rivers that feed into it.
something very fishy in the old ammunition bunker
The fish collection is stored in what seems like a very unlikely location. An old ammunition bunker used by the Navy during World War Two is filled with dozens of rows of metal shelves that reach almost to the ceiling. And those shelves contain the glass jars full of fish specimens.
Tulane’s fish collection featured on TV
The focus of tulane’s fish collection is research
The Tulane Biodiversity Institute provides fish specimens for researchers who want to get a closer look at species they are studying. The facility is not set up for tours. But Institute Director Henry Bart points out some of the more fascinating fish, the interesting, the odd, the rare and the extinct in videos below.