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Museum für Naturkunde (MfN)

Collections & Expertise

19th century expeditions by MfN yielded spectacular numbers of new species from all over the world, hence the holdings of over 30million specimens, include ca 250,000 type specimens. Plus, MfN is the largest animal and plant (fossil and recent) reference centre in Germany, with particular strengths in fossil vertebrates and recent marine invertebrates, insects, birds, seeds and fish.

The MfN collections form a vital substrate for research, especially for projects focused on the biodiversity and geological history of central Europe. The collections are extensively curated and documented, specimens can be easily located and examined and an increasing part of the MfN collections is digitised, including 180,000 databased lots, including 25,000 primary types.

Department Collection highlights and staff expertise
Mineralogy Chladni collection (1825) one of the oldest and most famous meteorite collections
Impact geology: formation of meteorite craters in nature, experiment, and mathematical modelling
Meteorites (Martian and carbonaceous), shock metamorphism and impact cratering processes
Palaeontology 'Berlin' specimen of Archaeopteryx, the most complete and best preserved example
Important fossil fish collection: major holdings from Devonian of Central Europe and Baltic (Gross collection) and Upper Jurassic of Germany
Diverse and comprehensive fossil plant collections from central Europe including important holdings from the Carboniferous and Permian
World’s only major collection of Jurassic Gondwanan dinosaurs, collected in Tanzania
Schlotheim Collection (1836) first scientific descriptions of fossil plants in the early 1800s, ca. 1,400 specimens
Ehrenberg Collection of micro-organisms, ca. 2,000 species types; one of the oldest and most important collections of algae and microfossils in the world
World’s largest collection of Devonian invertebrates; particular strengths in ammonoids, trilobites, gastropods and echinoderms
Evolution and functioning of fossil marine ecosystems
Fossil fish (Devonian and Mesozoic), Mesozoic marine reptiles, pterosaurs and dinosaurs, Mesozoic mammals and fossil whales
Palaeozoic and Mesozoic ammonoids, trilobites, Jurassic bivalves, Devonian and Cenozoic corals and Cretaceous echinoderms
Palaeozoic and Mesozoic palaeobotany, Mesozoic and Tertiary palynology, Tertiary and Quaternary carpology and palaeoecology, fossil and extant Radiolaria
Zoology Valdivia (Deutsche Tiefsee) and Gauss (Deutsche Südpolar) Expedition collections: containing type specimens of fish and marine invertebrates from the Atlantic, Pacific and Antarctic oceans
Bloch collection: largest and most important eighteenth-century fish collection ca. 250 types
Largest and most valuable embryological collection in existence, incl. both Hubrecht and Hill collections consisting of ca. 2,200 alcohol specimens and 50,000 - 80,000 microslides.
Peters collection (1850) consisting of ca. 500 type specimens of African fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals
Early bird collections including those of Pallas (1772) from Siberia, Deppe (1824-1830) from Mexico, Sellow (1814) from Brazil and Eversmann (1822) from the Ural
The Erichson Coleoptera collection with 1,600 types of European species
Staphylinid and carabid beetles, caddis flies, tachinid flies, Hawaiian cave bugs (Auchenorrhyncha), African and Palaearctic Hemiptera, sawflies and sphecid wasps; Amphipods and arachnids
Sarcopterygiid and Actynopterygiid fish, fish ontogeny and phylogeny, evolution and phylogeny of early tetrapods, Australasian & African frogs, Passeriform birds, molecular systematics of bats, mammalian embryology
Fresh-water gastropods and bivalves, Kinorhyncha and recent Brachiopoda
Library Comprehensive coverage, especially with regard to literature from Eastern Europe, Russia and the CIS, represents a unique resource within the central European area

Analytical Facilities

Important equipment including facilities for DNA extraction and analysis, state of the art microscopy and microprobe facilities are available in both DE TAF institutions. Modern laboratories completed during the last 5 years forms a unique array within a central European natural history museum, including instruments for conducting X-ray fluorescence, X-ray diffraction, molecular sequencing and digital imaging.

Information Technology and Access

Users may bring their own laptop or access to a PC will be provided upon request. Internet access can be arranged in most of the collection areas.

Research supported by the infrastructure

Climate change and biodiversity loss studies are integrative parts of the active research programs of DE-TAF. Expertise in coral reef research is a newly established direction focused on conservation issues.

DE-TAF staff and collaborators form the leading German research group mapping biodiversity, both across the planet and back through time, searching for factors – biological, climatic, geographical or geological– that control and influence biotic diversity and loss. DE-TAF acts as the main locus for systematic research in central Europe, and principal link to Eastern Europe and the CIS. Collaborative projects have been developed with countries including Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary, Bulgaria, Albania, Ukraine and Russia.

MfN research clusters around three research disciplines, namely the following:

  • Zoology:
    • gastropod evolution
    • terrestrial arthropod biodiversity
    • coral reef research
    • deep-sea biodiversity
    • molecular systematics
    • ancient DNA
  • Palaeontology:
    • syntheses of biodiversity dynamics and biostratigraphy data
    • evolution and fossil record lower vertebrates
    • morphology and phylogeny of fossil plants
    • evolutionary ecology and functioning of fossil marine ecosystems
  • Mineralogy:
    • impact geology
    • meteorites