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  • Cambridge Histology Collection

Histologically sectioned vertebrate specimens at the University Museum of Zoology, Cambridge

Since the 19th century and continuing to this day, a tried-and-true technique for visualizing internal and soft-tissue anatomy has been histology. As commonly practiced, a given specimen is demineralized, its water content slowly replaced with alcohol followed by a stable medium such as paraffin. This block is mounted onto a microtome, cut into very thin slices, and stained so that any given slice clearly shows blood vessels, nerves, muscles, cartilages and other tissues down to the level of an individual cell. Thanks to the generosity of numerous individuals from the medical and biological sciences, the University Museum of Zoology, Cambridge, has accumulated a diverse collection of histologically sectioned vertebrate specimens, often at multiple stages of embryological development.

Our histology collection consists of serial sections of approximately 168 mammals, 153 non-avian reptiles, 97 amphibians, 20 ray-finned fish, and a few specimens of chick, lungfish, lamprey, and lancelet. Particularly well-sampled species, at multiple developmental stages, include the tuatara (Sphenodon), the afrotherians Potamogale and Elephantulus, the platypus (Ornithorhynchus) and echidna (Tachyglossus). Also represented in our collection is a baleen whale (Balaenoptera), colugos (Cynocephalus volans), a foetal elephant (Loxodonta africana), and many other species.

Further details are available via our online database by typing "histo" into the "catalogue number" field. Note that our catalogue is imperfect. Much information has regrettably been lost in previous decades and we cannot guarantee that all of our current records are accurate.

Students and other scientific researchers are invited to use our collection following the terms and conditions shown on our collections website. We have microscopy, photographic, and computing facilities available to qualified researchers. If you would like access, please contact our collections manager or Robert J. Asher.