Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences (RBINS)


Collections & Expertise

Founded in 1846, RBINS houses a diverse and exceptionally rich zoological collection, palaeoanthropological and mineralogical collections and prehistoric items involving about 37,000,000 specimens with around 100,000 primary types. This places RBINS among the world top ten collections in terms of volume of specimen stored and available for research. The mollusc collection includes some 9,000,000 specimens representing 45,000 species and is ranked among the world top five. Same ranking can be given for the numerous collections of Coleoptera.

Department Collection highlights and staff expertise
Anthropology Anthropological studies of the remains found at Spy give RBINS a key position for research on Neanderthal man.
Collections from archeological reference sites in Belgium, covering the periods between the Lower Paleolithic (Spy, Mesvin IV, Maisières Canal) and the Neolithic (Darion, Waremme "Longchamps", Spiennes)
Entomology Selys Longchamps Odonata collection: 873 primary types and ca. 45,000 specimens
Fain’s Acari collection: 115,000 slides and 1,500 primary types
Remarkable collections of Fagel and Fauvel (Staphylinidae), Lameere (Cerambycidae), Candèze (Elateridae)
Chemical ecology: complex chemical defence called ‘easy wounding’ in some phytophagous Hymenoptera (i.e. sawflies)
Geology ca. 35,000 litho-samples collected all over Belgium in outcrops or drillholes
2,000 high quality core samples of bore-holes
Dumont collection:1,500 litho-samples form an excellent lithostratigraphical reference
International systematic collection mineralogy: 25,000 samples, 20,000 of which illustrate the variety of natural facies and the geographic distribution of sorts; collection covers 82% of all known minerals
Palaeontology 29 complete skeletons of Iguanodon (excavated at Bernissart)
Late Cretaceous mosasaur
Neogene fossil wale
Expertise in hadrosaurine dinosaurs, marine and terrestrial Tertiary and Quaternary mammals, Palaeozoic and Cenozoic biostratigraphy, fish otoliths and fish anatomy, Quaternary Palaeobotany
Zoology Diverse invertebrate collection, containing over 35,000 types
Dautzenberg shell collection comprises ca. 4.5 million specimens representing ca. 40,000 species
Marine sediments, benthos and fish of southern North Sea (G. Gilson’s programme - years 1900s)
Library For several years, the RBINS has catalogued more than 179,000 title descriptions (about 60% of the collection) which allows a multicriteria search via an online catalogue on the RBINS intranet.
Dautzenberg shell collection- ca. 8,000 antiquarian books on Mollusca

Analytical Facilities

RBINS has developed a Molecular Systematics Laboratory (MSL) over 10 years. The MSL provides a working environment for experienced molecular researchers and intensive practical training in molecular techniques and data treatment. In 2007 the JEMU (Joint Experimental Molecular Unit) was founded as a joint programme between RBINS and RMCA, employing scientists to sustain current molecular research in addition to the current staff. Microscopy includes a new, environmental scanning electron microscope, FEI XL 30 ESEM. The new apparatus has a number of advantages, such as the possibility to work in wet mode and to record digitised images. Leica Ultracut Ultramicrotome and a Leica EM-KMR-2 Knifemaker TEM are also available along with a Leica EM CPC and a Leica EM AFS2 for cryofixation, cryopreparation and freeze substitution of samples for TEM.

For a full list of the equipment that Users can apply to use, click here.

Information Technology and Access

RBINS ICT service has developed the research tool “Darwin” which is a database comprising 283 736 digitized information covering 1 900 000 specimens from its collections. This database, fully accessible and searchable from 2010 on gives researchers detailed and practical indications on the collection they want to study in RBINS conservatories.

Support for an Internet access is offered to all users, both for their personal laptop or for a computer made available. The rooms of the Institute’s guest house also provide an internet connexion.

Research supported by the infrastructure

BE-TAF researchers assist European, governmental and regional agencies in the implementation of all major international directives such as the EC Habitat Directive, Washington, Bern and Barcelona Conventions, the Global Taxonomic Initiative (Convention on Biological Diversity) and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). They support these conventions by fundamental research on conservation biology.

RBINS is formally involved in many international bodies such as the Limnology Centre (Lake Baïkal) and Centre C. Darwin (Galapagos Islands), and has established cooperation agreements with many universities or research centres all around the world. Geographical areas of taxonomical expertise cover only partly the Belgian fauna, but most other regions of the world as Africa (great lakes, national parks of DRC), SE Asia, Papua New Guinea, South America (Galapagos Islands, Argentina), Russia (Lake Baïkal) and Antarctica.