Small, slim fish specially prepared to make soft tissues (skin and muscle) transparent and to stain bones stained red and cartilage blue. Dorsal, pelvic, and anal fins have robust, pointed spines.


Zoology is the scientific study of animals, covering the incredible diversity of invertebrates (such as spiders, insects, snails, clams, and worms) and vertebrates (fishes, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals). 

The Zoology collections at the Manitoba Museum are an irreplaceable archive of Manitoban animals that span over 125 years. Numbering well over 120,000 specimens, they include significant provincial holdings of butterflies and moths, mammals, molluscs, and birds. Collections of fishes, amphibians, and reptiles are more modest, as are holdings from outside the province. The Zoology collections are a resource for researchers around the world, and form the basis of Museum exhibits and interpretation. 

Over the years, research by zoologists at the Manitoba Museum has included work on butterflies, snails, frogs, and mammals. Much of this earlier research recorded geographic distributions (finding out where animals live), though this work is still incomplete – much of Manitoba is difficult to survey effectively. 

Recent research has not only recorded distributions, but has examined the evolutionary history of species and populations. Colour and genetic variation in red-sided garter snakes, the nature of the northern contact zone between Canadian and American toads, and shape and genetic differences among three-spined sticklebacks are projects that help clarify how Manitoba’s animals came to be living where they are today. 

Understanding where and how animals live provides baseline data necessary for responsible environmental stewardship. Accurate knowledge of animal distribution can monitor impacts of climate change and human activities, and help maintain the health of the environment and ourselves. 

Six small butterflies with wings open, pinned through the thorax onto white foam. They are light gray-brown with darker wing veins and a series of pale, cream-coloured spots near the outer edge of front and rear wings, and the front wings have two black spots with pale centres in this series.

The Ridings’ satyr (Neominois ridingsii) is a short-grass prairie species that has not been seen in Manitoba since the early 1950s. You can see examples of this species (collected from elsewhere) in the Prairies Gallery. Image © Manitoba Museum

A blunt-faced toad, pale with brown and greenish stripes and spots on bumpy skin with its throat expanded like a sausage-shaped balloon to slightly above its nose. It is sitting in shallow water with emergent vegetation.

Great Plains toad (Anaxyrus cognatus) calling to attract females, found near Melita, Manitoba while conducting population surveys. This is a threatened species in the province. Image © R. D. Mooi

A large-eyed, frog-like toad, greenish-gray with cream-coloured stripes and blotches and flecked with a few small, red spots on its back. It is floating with legs outstretched in a pond with its bulbous throat sac filled with air to capacity – the same size, or even bigger, than its entire body.

A plains spadefoot toad (Spea bombifrons) discovered while surveying amphibian populations near Melita, Manitoba. It occurs only in the southwestern corner of the province. Image © R.D. Mooi

A man in winter hat, coat, and hip waders at night, holding a flashlight in his right hand and reaching under vegetation in a water-filled ditch to capture a very small frog with his bare, left hand.

Curator of Zoology, Dr. Randall Mooi, collecting spring peepers (Pseudacris crucifer) during a very cool night in May near the Matheson Island ferry terminal. Image © P. Taylor

A skull and lower jaw of a large cat (50 kg) showing large canine teeth.

Skull and lower jaw of a 50 kg cougar (Puma concolor) from the Turtle Mountain area of Manitoba. Image © Manitoba Museum

A bull bison head looking straight ahead mounted on a black oval plaque.

Plains bison (Bison bison bison) head from the original Pablo-Allard herd purchased by the Canadian government, the beginning of the successful conservation of this species. Image © Manitoba Museum

A set of three eggs, each about 60 mm long, with a cream-coloured background and reddish-brown blotches of random sizes, shapes, and patterns.

Osprey eggs, one of over 300 sets of eggs of North American species from early- to mid-20th century in the Oswald Collection. Image © Manitoba Museum

Dove with a slate-blue back, orange breast, and gray tail with white outer feathers prepared as a taxidermy specimen but removed from branch, laying on a black background.

Male passenger pigeon (Ectopistes migratorius) from Winnipegosis, Manitoba, 1898. This is the last known specimen collected in Canada of this now-extinct species. It can be seen on exhibit in the Prairies Gallery. Image © Manitoba Museum

Dr. Randy Mooi

Dr. Randy Mooi

Curator of Zoology

Dr. Mooi received his Ph.D. in zoology from the University of Toronto working on the evolutionary history of coral reef fishes. Following a postdoctoral fellowship in the Division of Fishes of the Smithsonian Institution…
Meet Dr. Randall Mooi