The Zoological Museum Hamburg (ZMH) fish collection as a global biodiversity archive for elasmobranchs and actinopterygians as well as other fish taxa
Based on the analysis of the Zoological Museum Hamburg (ZMH) fish collection database, a current status report of the ZMH fish collection is provided with a focus on Elasmobranchii and Actinopterygii. Therein, development of the collection, systematic and geographic coverage of the collection material, and the volume and structure of the ZMH type collection are presented and analysed. The majority of the specimens in the ZMH fish collection is preserved in 70% ethanol and arranged in phylogenetic order. The basis of the collection originates from the former Natural History Museum in Hamburg. Initially low in numbers, in 1850 amounting to only 119 lots, the fish collection increased markedly during the second half of the 19th century. By the end of 1875 the number of registered lots was 550, surpassing the 4400 mark in 1900. Expeditions exploring unknown habitats and territories were the main source of material during the first half of the 20th century. The first two decades of the 20th century marked a period of relatively rapid expansion in the number of fish species and specimens collected at the ZMH, with about 11.1% of the material indexed in the collection database originating from 1901 to 1920. Much of the additional expansion derived from the 1993 takeover of 23 860 marine fish lots from the former ISH (Institut für Seefischerei, Hamburg) collection, the main reason for which about 74.6% of all actual catalogued lots were stored in the ZMH fish collection during the 1951–2000 period. In February 2008, the number of catalogued entries reached 45 640, with about 257 967 specimens. Some 8100 nominal species in 60 orders and 378 families are represented in the ZMH fish collection. The collection maintains worldwide coverage, with large numbers of lots originating from the Atlantic Ocean, Pacific Ocean, Indian Ocean, Caribbean Sea, from Asia, Africa, Europe, South America and Middle America. Actinopterygii and Elasmobranchii together comprise more than 93% of the known orders, more than 98% of the families and more than 99% of the lots and individuals represented in the collection database. The collection contains about 1321 type series (lots) and 3656 type specimens; 41.8% of the type lots are primary types. Actinopterygians contribute 90.6% to the type series and 94.6% to the type specimens. Elasmobranchs are represented with 8.1% of the type series and 4.7% of the type specimens in the ZMH fish collection. Sharks are represented with 27 type series (25.2%), whereas the contribution of batiods amounts to 80 type series (74.8%). Comprising 69.2% of all elasmobranch types, the family Rajidae is the most important group of batoid fishes represented. The family Scyliorhinidae with 14.0% of all elasmobranch types is the best-represented shark family in the ZMH type collection. Further development and future research of the ZMH Ichthyology Group is discussed and is to include modern taxonomic and biogeographic approaches important in present global biodiversity research, thereby rendering the ZMH fish collection as an indispensible tool among international reference centres dealing with biodiversity documentation and conservation of fishes.