The natural history museum at Tel Aviv University houses one of the largest collections of vertebrates (mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish) in Asia, and is the largest such collection in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East. The collections house over 165,000 specimens representing approximately 3,500 species and have a world wide geographic coverage, with a main focus on Israeli species and localities: around 80% of the total specimens with locality data are from Israel. Because Israeli vertebrate are so well represented population-level studies of geographic and temporal variation are feasible, and are often carried out. The collections are fully computerized and the database also includes measurements for many of the specimens. Much of these data will soon be available on the web.
While some late 19th century and early 20th century collections of historical importance are now housed at the museum (e.g., the collections of Pater Schmitz and Israel Aharoni, which include some of the last members of recently extinct Israeli vertebrates such as the Nile crocodile, the cheetah and Mirogrex terraesanctae hulensis), collecting has really started in earnest with the establishment of Tel Aviv University in the 1950s, peaking in the 60s and early 70s.
Whereas earlier collecting efforts represent species-specific targeting, in recent years much of the collecting has been done in biodiversity surveys using pitfall traps, resulting in a large number of small mammals, anurans and lizards entering the collection. Also, A study conducted in the Mediterranean Sea over the past few years has added many new samples to the fish collection and an increased insight into the process by which the Mediterranean Sea is slowly becoming a biogeographical extension of the Indian Ocean.
The collections are also the prime repository for specimens collected today by rangers of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority. The vertebrates collections are intensively used for both research and teaching purposes. Teaching involves both TelAvivUniversity biology students, students from other universities and schoolchildren undertaking activities in Nature Campus.