Ichthyology has been a part of research at the Academy since its beginnings, but its importance has increased dramatically since 1898 when it acquired the entire personal collection of the famous 19th century naturalist Edward Drinker Cope and Henry Weed Fowler became its first full-time curator. The collection has continued to grow in size, scope, and importance; the department is now rated as one of the top five ichthyology centers in North America. It currently houses 1.2 million cataloged specimens representing an estimated 11,000 species and 2,797 primary types. The collection is taxonomically diverse, but its especially strong among eels, characiforms and catfish. Its geographic scope is world-wide, but it's strengths include freshwater species of North and South America and marine species of the Bahamas, Western Atlantic and Indian Oceans. Continued growth results from recent expeditions to the Bahamas, South America and Asia.
About 60,000 specimens (7733 lots) of mostly freshwater fishes from throughout Brazil including old historically important collections (e.g., 1881-1882 Herbert Huntingdon Smith Expedition) and expeditions funded by the US National Science Foundation (e.g., 1993-1996 Calhamazon Project and 2012-2014 iXingu Project, NSF DEB-1257813).