Fish Collection

Fishes are animals that live in water, respire through gills, and have skeletons made of bone or cartilage.

The Fish Collection was begun by Dr. C. McLean Fraser, the first head of UBC’s Department of Zoology. Some specimens date back as far as 1904, but cataloguing didn’t begin until 1945. Dr. Murray Newman was the collection’s first curator, and Dr. Wilbur Clemens, G.V.Wilby, Dr. Casimir Lindsey, Dr. Norman Wilimovsky, and Dr. J. Donald McPhail each expanded the collections greatly over the decades.

Today, the collection holds over 800,000 specimens and over 50,000 DNA and tissue samples, making it the third-largest fish collection in Canada. The collection holds 11 holotype specimens, original specimens that were used to describe new species. It also contains representatives of what may be the youngest fish species on Earth: pairs of stickleback species that evolved only recently in British Columbia’s lakes.

The collection has been used in environmental assessments, conservation efforts, and numerous research projects, as well as in educating and training some of Canada’s leading fish biologists. Its specimens have also been used to document regime shifts in the Bering Sea, the formation of new species, and the extinction of others.


Using the Collection

The UBC Fish Collection was the first to be deposited and indexed by FishBase, a web-based relational database containing information on practically all fish known to science. You can search the UBC Fish Collection using FishBase by clicking here. (Once at Fishbase, enter “UBC” under “Begins with” in the “By catalogue no.” box; genus and species in the “Name used in collection boxes”, any other filters you wish and hit “Search”.) For access to pictures, drawings, distribution maps, catch data, graphs of body mass versus brain size, red list status, spawning and size data by geographic area, and much more, click here. The hard copies of collection records with details of each collection have now been scanned and are available through UBC Library Digital Collection. Click here to view individual collection metadata. You may also find this Field Key to Freshwater BC Fishes (PDF) helpful.

If you would like to access the Fish Collection for research purposes, please contact Dr. Eric Taylor (contact us).

For studies showing how the Fish Collection has been used, please see our Articles & Papers page.

History of the Fish Collection

The UBC Fish Museum started in the mid-1940’s with collections donated by Dr. C. MacLean Fraser, first head of the

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