Threatened and extinct amphibians and reptiles in Italian natural history collections are useful conservation tools
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Natural history museums are irreplaceable tools to study and preserve the biological diversity around the globe and among the primary actors in the recognition of species and the logical repositories for their type specimens. In this paper we surveyed the consistency of the preserved specimens of amphibians and reptiles housed in the major Italian scientific collections, and verified the presence of threatened species according to the IUCN Red List, including the Extinct (EX), Extinct in the Wild (EW), Critically Endangered (CR), Endangered (EN), and Vulnerable (VU) categories. Altogether, we analyzed 39 Italian zoological collections. We confirmed the presence of one extinct reptile (Chioninia coctei) and five extinct or extinct in the wild amphibian species (Atelopus longirostris, Nectophrynoides asperginis, Pseudophilautus leucorhinus, P. nasutus, and P. variabilis). Seven CR amphibians, fourteen CR reptile species and the extinct skink C. coctei are shared by more than one institution. Museums which host the highest number of threatened and extinct amphibian species are respectively Turin (17 CR and 1 EX), Florence (13 CR and 1 EX), and Trento (15 CR and 1 EW), while for reptiles the richest museums are those from Genoa (15 CR and 1 EX), Florence (11 CR and 1 EX), and Pisa (7 CR). Finally, we discussed the utility of natural history museums and the strategies to follow for the implementation of their functionality.