Deutsche Version

History of the Herpetology Section

The basis of the herpetological collection was already laid some 190 years ago by the field work of Johann Baptist Spix in Brazil (1817-1819). The scientific analysis of this collection resulted in numerous new descriptions of snakes (Wagler 1824), anurans and tortoises (Spix 1824) as well as saurians and crocodiles (Spix 1825).

Johann Georg WaglerJohann Georg Wagler 1800-1832

Spix lived from 1781-1826 and after his death Johann Georg Wagler (1800-1832) continued the work on the extensive collections from Brazil. He also contributed significantly to the higher level systematics of the amphibians and reptiles (Wagler 1830) and described many well-known genera, including Alytes, Dendrobates, Pelobates and Xenopus. Wagler died as a result of a firearm accident at the age of 32 years in München-Moosach.

In the activity period of Prof. Dr. Lorenz Müller the herpetological collection became an independent department. Müller lived from 1868-1953 and worked since 1903 as a voluntary assistant in the zoological state collection and led the herpetological department from 1912-1948. His technical assistant was Dora Schmelcher. Müller developed the collection to international size and significance. Own field work led him to Italy, on the Balkans and to South America. Using his intensive contacts to many scientists and collectors he increased the collection considerably.

Several collections from this period are worth mentioning, especially those of Prof. Dr. W. Goetsch from southern Europe (1927-1934), Argentina (1927-1928) and Chile (1929-1931); of K. Klapperich from China (1938); of H. Kulzer from the Near East (1911-1912, 1926-1928); of K. Lankes from Central Europe and the Balkans (in 1907-1912); of Dr. W. Uthmöller from East Africa (in 1927-1936); of father C. Vogl from Venezuela (in 1925-1939) and of Prof. Dr. E. Zugmayer from Central Asia (in 1906-1911).

During the second world war large parts of the herpetological collection were destroyed with intensive bombardments in April 1944. Successor to Lorenz Müller became in 1948 Prof. Dr. Walter Hellmich (1906-1974) who was active as a student of Müller already since 1934 in the herpetological collection. ZSM. Numerous co-authored publications demonstrate the close cooperation of both herpetologists.

Due to the field work of Hellmich in Spain, Chile, Argentina, Paraguay, Angola and in Turkey the collection grew rapidly. Until 1960 Dora Schmelcher assisted in preparation and cataloguing. After her retirement Dieter Fuchs began his work in the department in September 1960 as collection manager and reorganized the herpetological collection. Since 1960 Prof. Hellmichs interest concentrated upon the Himalayas. He founded and led a research program of Nepal and the Himalayas. Hellmich retired in 1971. His successor, Dr. Ulrich Gruber, continued the research activities of the Himalayas. Moreover, he worked on the herpetofauna of the Greek islands and the region of Munich.

After his retirement Dr. Frank Glaw became the curator of herpetology in December 1997. His main research interest is the herpetofauna of Madagascar and the Comoro islands. After the retirement of Dieter Fuchs in early 2007 Michael Franzen became the collection manager in August 2007.

Further Reading

Fuchs, D. (2001): Walter Hellmich (1906-1974).- In: W. Rieck, G. Hallmann & W. Bischoff (eds.): Die Geschichte der Herpetologie und Terrarienkunde im deutschsprachigen Raum.- Mertensiella 12: 474-477

Glaw, F. (2001): Johann Georg Wagler (1800-1832).- In: W. Rieck, G. Hallmann & W. Bischoff (eds.): Die Geschichte der Herpetologie und Terrarienkunde im deutschsprachigen Raum.- Mertensiella 12: 633-637 Link to PDF

Glaw, F. & D. Fuchs (2001): Die Herpetologie in der Zoologischen Staatssammlung München.- In: W. Rieck, G. Hallmann & W. Bischoff (eds.): Die Geschichte der Herpetologie und Terrarienkunde im deutschsprachigen Raum.- Mertensiella 12: 374-377 Link to PDF

Gruber, U. (1992): Die Sektion Herpetologie (Lurche und Kriechtiere) der Zoologischen Staatssammlung München.- Spixiana, Suppl. 17: 126-132

Spix, J. B., de (1824). Animalia nova sive species novae Testudinarum Ranarum, quas in itinere per Brasiliam annis MDCCCXVII-MDCCCXX jussu et auspiciis Maximiliani Josephi I. Bavariae regis. - Monachii, 4 pp. 1-53, plts. 1-17 + 1-22

Spix, J. B., de (1825). Animalia nova sive species novae Lacertarum, quas in itinere per Brasiliam annis MDCCCXVII-MDCCCXX jussu et auspiciis Maximiliani Josephi I. Bavariae regis. - Monachii, 2 pp. 1-26, 18 pls.

Wagler, J. (1824): Serpentum Brasiliensium species novae ou Histoire Naturelle des espèces nouvelles de serpens, recueillies et observées pendant la voyage dans l'intérieur du Brésil dans les années 1817, 1818, 1819, 1820 exécuté par ordre de Sa Majesté le Roi de Bavière, publiée par Jean de Spix.- Monachii: I-VIII, 1-75 [Reprint 1981]

Wagler, J. (1830). Natürliches System der Amphibien, mit vorangehender Classification der Säugethiere und Vögel. - München, Stuttgart, Tübingen (Cotta'sche Buchhandlung), 354 pp.