The wildlife exhibits highlight the regions of Texas through dioramas, including mounted specimens of Texas birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians. Fishes of Texas includes multimedia displays, underwater photographs and collected specimens, helping visitors gain an appreciation for the diversity and value of Texas fishes. Come see the beauty of wings and colors in insects and learn how flight has played a key role in the success of the most dominant group of animals on the planet in our Winged Wonders exhibit.
Featured exhibits in the Hall of Texas Wildlife (third floor)
Fishes of Texas
This exhibit highlights freshwater fishes in Texas and their place in our world. The exhibit includes profiles of freshwater-fish species in Texas, discussions of fish diversity, and a look at how fish fit into our lives and environment. Through multimedia displays, underwater photographs, and Texas Memorial Museum specimens, visitors gain an appreciation of the diversity and value of Texas fishes.
If you have a further interest in Texas fishes, please see www.fishesoftexas.org
The Fishes of Texas Project is a multi-year research project that attempts to consolidate, standardize and fully georeference all of the known scientific information on the freshwater fishes of Texas. The project is a collaboration of the Texas Memorial Museum at The University of Texas at Austin, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Texas State University, and The University of Texas-Pan American.
The Fishes of Texas website is a work in progress. Data and specimens are currently under review for correctness. We will have a finalized version coming soon. Meanwhile, please feel free to help us improve the quality of our offerings by registering in our system and contributing your comments, images, fieldnotes, etc.
Natural Regions of Texas
Several species of plants and animals are found throughout Texas, but many inhabit more restricted areas in regions such as the Piney Woods, Trans-Pecos, Panhandle Plains, Oak Woodlands and Prairies, South Texas Brush Country and the Edwards Plateau. These regions are often called natural regions, and are defined by the types of soil and plant communities present. A community is a group of organisms comprised of several species populations that co-occur and interact with each other in the same habitat or region. Mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and plants are members of communities in each region and a variety of species are represented in this exhibit.
Six major regions with a diversity of terrains, plants and animals in Texas are highlighted at each window in this gallery. Representative animals from each region are identified; many are common, but some are rare or threatened with extinction.
Each of the animals in this exhibit is nocturnal, that is, active at night. In general, most mammals are nocturnal, as are some birds, especially owls. Mammals and owls that “work the night shift” possess specialized sensory adaptations. To improve night vision, many mammals have a well-developed reflective layer, the tapetum lucidum, behind the retina of the eye. This layer reflects light back through the eye, and creates the “eye shine” one sees when light meets a mammal’s eyes at night. Most mammals have specialized whiskers, called vibrissae, on their snouts and heads. Vibrissae provide tactile (sense of touch) information and play a role in the detection of obstacles.
While mammals have large ears that move to capture sounds, owls are capable of rotating their heads quickly to capture movement or sounds of prey, primarily small rodents, which are also active at night. An owl’s eyes are large and set into the front of its skull. Despite having to turn their heads to see in different directions, owls have excellent eyesight, which is especially important for hunting prey in limited light.
A variety of Texas wildlife and their habitats are depicted in the dioramas in this hall. These dioramas have a long history, for several were part of the exhibits created for the University Centennial Exposition in 1936, which was in celebration of Texas’ independence.
Accurately painted models of reptiles are found in the cases along the greatest length of the hall. Learn how to identify local venomous and non-venomous snakes and see a Texas horned lizard—the State Reptile of Texas.
A sample of bird species found in Texas is also depicted in dioramas that include a roadrunner and scaled quail. The Texas Gulf Coast, home to both migrant and resident bird species, is represented by several shorebirds and gulls.
The puma (mountain lion) and bison cases are the largest dioramas on exhibit and both depict scenes from western regions of Texas. Pumas once roamed statewide, but are now restricted to the Trans-Pecos and parts of the Edwards Plateau and South Texas Brush Country. Slaughtered primarily by commercial hide-hunters, bison were close to extinction by the late 1880s. The last verified record of wild bison in Texas was in the Panhandle-Plains region in 1889.
Insects are the first organisms on Earth that took to the air—about 310 million years ago! They remain one of only three extant groups of flying animals (along with bats and birds). The characteristics of insect flight are remarkable and still far superior to any attempts made by humans to replicate their capabilities. During the Permian Period (299 million years ago to 252 million years ago), the ancestors to dragonflies were the only aerial predators. Some had wing spans of nearly 30 inches, but otherwise looked very similar to their modern day counterparts.
Insects also display a wide variety of colors and have evolved several ways of generating the colors we see. Some use pigments, while many others use microscopic structural differences in the exoskeleton to produce a spectrum of colors. Come see the diversity of wings and colors in insects and learn how flight has played a key role in the success of the most dominant group of animals on the planet.