Biological sciences

Marine life beneath Edithburgh Jetty. Image: Greg Rouse.

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

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. 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. These permits stipulate well-established guidelines to ensure that all animals are killed humanely and that restricted numbers of specimens are taken that will not impact on natural populations. Read more information on the ethical animal research guidelines.


Bird eggs.

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

Billfish in spirit.

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

Mammal skins.

Mammal skins curated in the Mammals Collection in the Museum's Science Centre where skulls, skeletons and specimens preserved in ethanol of small mammals are also stored.

Coral specimens in ethanol.

Specimens of corals stored in ethanol in the Marine Invertebrates Collections.

Slide trays of parasites.

Small biological specimens (eg. parasitic worms, some marine invertebrates, terrestrial invertbrates like mites, insects & springtails) studied using microscopy are stored on flat trays containing  microscope slides.

Pinned insects.

Pinned insect specimens in new, purpose-built collection facilities installed in 2012–2013 at the Science Centre.