Object identification service

As part of our public service, we run a free object identification service. If you have a natural history object you would like identified, you can either take a photograph of it (but please provide a properly focused, well-lit photograph with a scale bar) and email it to us, or bring it to the Museum. However, please note that there are a lot of legal restrictions on what you can and can't bring to the Museum. If you are not sure if there is a legal restriction on the item you'd like us to identify, please call or email us in advance to check. 

You can find out more about bug identification, and try and identify a particular bug for yourself here.

Email our experts in palaentology, minerology and petrology at earth@oum.ox.ac.uk

Email our experts in zoology (including entomology) at life@oum.ox.ac.uk

Telephone: 01865 272 950

An example object identification

We received the following photographs, and our experts identified it as an elephant hawk caterpillar. They're curious creatures that are actually quite common in the UK around spring. It is completely harmless but has an evolutionary defense mechanism: striking eye patterns that make it appear much larger than it actually is. Our advice if you come across this specimen in your garden is to leave it be, as in a couple of weeks it'll turn into a fantastically colourful moth!


Deilephila elpenor with head retracted
elephant hawkmoth caterpillar
Elephant hawkmoth, Deilephila elpenor