Vertebrate Zoology Research Guide

Welcome to the Smithsonian Libraries and Archives' Vertebrate Zoology Research Guide. This is a select list of freely-available resources for students, teachers, and researchers to learn about vertebrate zoology. Please feel free to Contact Us with suggestions for additional resources or with questions. 

Smithsonian Resources

  • National Museum of Natural History Department of Vertebrate Zoology: Website for the Smithsonian divisions which work on Fishes, Amphibians and Reptiles, Birds, and Mammals that provide information about Smithonsian research being done and collections.
  • Vertebrate Zoology Libraries:  Four satellite Smithsonian libraries for Amphibians & Reptiles and Fishes, Birds, and Mammals with a collection of around 56,000 volumes. The libraries focus on the taxonomy, anatomy and physiology, ecology, and evolution of their respective subject groups.
  • Natural History Research Guide: General reserach guide for the Natural History Library featuring links to all Natural History libraries and related subject guides within the Smithsonian.
  • Index Animalium: Digital version of Charles David Sherborn's Index Animalium, a 9,000-page compendium of zoological taxonomic species nomenclature from 1758 to 1850.
  • Mammal Species of the World: Searchable online version of Don E. Wilson & DeeAnn M. Reeder 2005 reference work Mammal Species of the World, managed by Bucknell University in collaboration with the Smithsonian and the Society of American Mammologists.
  • Smithsonian Ocean Portal: Website collecting information about ocean life, ecosystems, and conservation, as well as providing details about current and former Smithsonian exhibits related to the ocean.
  • Whales - From Bone to Book: Digital Exhibition from the Smithsonian Libraries including whale bone illustrations, a digitized book collection, and full text articles from Smithsonian scholars.
  • Beaked Whale Identification Guide: Guide to help identify stranded beaked whales using geography, their skull, and other external features.
  • Science Teaching Resources (Life Science): Collection of Life Science related lessons, activities, literacy resources, and videos from the Department of Education at the National Museum of Natural History.
  • Integrated Taxonomic Information System: Taxonomic database searchable by scientific and common names maintained through a partnership of U.S., Canadian, and Mexican federal agencies including the Smithsonian.
  • Databases for Science Research: List of science research databases from the Smithsonian Libraries. Many of the databases are free access, but others require users to be onsite at a Smithsonian library or have Smithsonian network access.
  • Biodiversity Heritage Library: Online library featuring open access legacy literature from the Smithsonian Libraries and a consortium of other natural history and botanical libraries.
  • Encyclopedia of Life: Based on the idea of a webpage for every species, this multilingual resource provides multimedia information about a large subsection of life on earth.



  • All About Birds: Guide to birds and bird watching from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. It features a searchable database of birds including life history, habitat maps, identification information and a recording of their call, as well as articles from Living Bird magazine.
  • Birds of North America: Comprehensive reference featuring expert species accounts of the birds of North America also from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. The non-subscription version provides a habitat map and life history for each species and the subscription version adds more in-depth information.
  • Ornithilogical Research Archive: Open access archive of ornithological literature. The archive contains publications from as far back as early 20th Century up to the last decade
  • Avibase: Online bird database with range, multi-lingual name, and taxonomic information. It includes information for over 11,000 species and 12,000 regions.
  • The Internet Bird Collection: Audiovisual library of images, sounds, and videos of birds from around the world
  • Project Passenger Pigeon: Website from the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum that tells the story of the passenger pigeon's dramatic fall from billions in number to extinct in 40 years.
  • Feather Atlas: Collection of images of birds' flight feathers from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Includes a guide to help identify feathers
  • U..S Fish and Wildlife Service - Birds: The primary U.S. governmental agency in charge of bird welfare, this U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service site contains information about the Migratory Bird Program and bird management, as well as data about bird populations and migration.
  • Great Backyard Bird Count: Datasets, images, and sounds from the Great Backyard Bird Count. Resources include results from the counts from 1999 to today, local bird information, and species maps.
  • American Birding Association: Association of recreational birders in the U.S. They provide birding guides, as well as a regularly updated blog and podcast.
  • American Bird Conservancy: This western hemisphere bird conservancy organization's site contains information about threats to birds and potential solutions
  • Avian Society Advisory Group – Associated with the AZA, ASAG supports zoo and aquarium avian programs through meetings, grant funding, and workshops.
  • BirdLife Australia – Offers publications detailing the organization’s work in bird conservancy across Australia.
  • International Crane Foundation – The Ron Sauey Memorial Library for Bird Conservation has digital bookshelves website users can peruse.
  • Kiwis for Kiwi – Dedicated to the conservation of kiwis within their native New Zealand. Provides grant funding, executes research, and partners with the NZ Department of Conservation to extend its mission.

Freshwater and Marine Life


Marine Mammals

  • Watkins Marine Mammal Sound Database: Collection of over 2000 recordings from more than 60 marine mammal species with geographic and time data, provided by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute.
  • NOAA - Marine Mammals: Information about all the different marine mammal species under the jurisdiction of the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration including habitat, distribution, and population trends.
  • American Catacean Society: Society dedicated to whale, dolphin, and porpoise conservation.

Reptiles and Amphibians

  • Herpmapper: Crowdsourced site featuring data about sightings of reptile and amphibian species around the globe with over 220,000 records. Sighting data includes date and location information, as well as photographic evidence of the species.
  • The Reptile Database: Catalog of the over 10,000 living reptile species covering snakes, lizards, turtles, amphisbaenians, tuataras, and crocodiles.
  • CrocBite: Database of crocodile attacks on humans featuring information about attacks, victims, crocodiles involved, and a searchable map of the attacks.
  • Amphibian Species of the World: Online reference for information about amphibian species as broken down by taxonomy from the American Museum of Natural History.
  • AmphibiaWeb: Searchable database with information about biology and conservation for more than 7,500 amphibian species from the University of California, Berkeley.
  • Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles – Promotes conservation through education, project work, and publications, such as the Journal of Herpetology and Herpetological Review.

General Resources

  • VertNet: Vertebrate Database created from FishNet, MaNIS, HerpNET, and ORNIS. VertNet contains over 20,000,000 records from more than 380 collections across all vertebrates.
  • Animal Diversity Web: Database featuring specimens, images, and recordings of thousands of animal species from the University of Michigan.
  • Wikispecies: Crowd sourced directory of taxonomic information about living things. Typical entries include family, genus, species, subspecies, and multi-lingual vernacular names.
  • Index to Oranism Names: Searchable index of millions of scientific names, both fossil and current, from the scientific literature.
  • Biodiversity Mapping: Collection of map visualizations of bird, mammal, and amphibian biodiversity throughout the world with downloadable datasets.
  • Global Biodiversity Information Facility: Database for searching open access biodiversity data, especially species occurrence information, from across the world.
  • BIODIC: Collection of over 1600 biological electron micrographs ranging from scorpion stingers to birch pollen from the Université Libre de Bruxelles.
Last Updated March 30, 2021