Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales (MNCN) & Real Jardín Botánico (RJB)

Collections & Expertise

The collections of ES-TAF consist of about 8.6 million specimens including ca. 64,200 types It is the most important representative collection of the Mediterranean Basin in the world including specimens from the Iberian Peninsula, Balearic and Canary Islands, which are a unique resource for studies of one of the most biodiverse areas in Europe. Collections from outside Iberia enable research on the biota of northern Africa and Latin America. The latter has inestimable historical value because it contains many tissue specimens collected in 18th and 19th century scientific expeditions. ES TAF also houses a new DNA and tissues collection.

Collection Highlights
Botany Flowering plants: Important historical collections from 18th & 19th century expeditions to tropical and temperate Americas and the Philippines (Mutis, Ruiz & Pavón, Sessé & Mociño, Isern, Vidal & Blanco), as well as from Iberia (Cavanilles, Lagasca, Pau)
Fungi from Iberian Peninsula, Equatorial Guinea and Central and South America
Database containing 437,000 botanical literature records extracted mainly from Spanish journals and referring to the Iberian Peninsula.
Expertise (RJB) on analytical historical biogeography, including modelling of dispersal and vicariance patterns under paleogeographic and temporal scenarios; population structure, genomic and gene expression analyses; ecological modelling through bioclimatic computer simulation and analytical biogeography tools; micromorphological developmental analysis; high resolution digital image analysis, etc
Genetic Resource DNA samples, frozen and freeze-dried tissues and specimens for molecular analyses
300,000 specimens of more than 2,000 species (85 type specimens)
Phylogenetics and evolutionary mechanisms: using molecular information for diverse topics such as estimating shallow phylogenies at the genus level (e.g. in Hydrobiids, daffodils), elucidating complex relationships at a deep level (as in the case of Tetrapoda or Protistas, Mycetozoa), and clarifying evolutionary mechanisms such as reticulation and polyploidy in plants, inferring the distribution history and tempo and mode of species diversification, the evolution of genetic control of morphological traits, or the co-evolution between hosts and parasites.
Population genetics and phylogeography. Development of new non-invasive techniques to extract DNA, which allow individual identification and an accurate study of population genetics in endangered species. These techniques have been used, to describe low levels of genetic variability in brown bear populations, and to give a detailed genetic history of nuclear, chloroplast or mitochondrial genomes in Iberian amphibians, Margaritifera spp., cyprinid fishes, or Mediterranean endemic plant taxa etc.
Geology Minerals (about 15,000) and rocks from Iberian Peninsula • Balearic and Canary Islands • some European mining districts
Geological samples from Historical Expeditions (18th-20th centuries.) from Chile, Peru and Mexico, including rocks of Heuland brothers and Alexander von Humboldt
Collection of 300 fallen meteorites from Europe and America
Quaternary research, from global geological environmental changes to palaeontological studies.
Palaeontology vertebrates, invertebrates and botanical fossils, mainly Iberian Peninsula and South America
More than 1,000,000 specimens including the important collections of Atapuerca, Cerro de los Batallones and Mammals of Spanish Cenozoic
Zoology Important historical collections and North African Insecta & Crustacea (I. Bolívar) • Cuban fauna (F. Poey) • Mollusca from Philippines (J.G. Hidalgo) • Parasite Helminths from Iberian Peninsula (López-Neira) • Amphibia from South America (Jiménez de la Espada) and Spain
42,000 lots of recently collected, well-documented, and not yet studied specimens of insects and marine fauna (FAUNA Oceanographic Expeditions 1990–1996 from the Iberian Peninsula, Balearic and Canary Islands)
Reproduction of endangered species – established protocols for semen cryopreservation and a genetic resource bank
Biogeography, modelling and climate change - tools for modelling distributions of species in response to environmental and human-induced drivers based on extensive experience in modelling responses of species to both past, present and future environmental changes. A recently created SIG laboratory can provide both georeferencing and geographical treatement of faunistic information.
Library Two public libraries with the most complete coverage in the Iberian Peninsula for natural history literature.
More than 88,000 volumes, 7,400 scientific journals, and access to more than 9,000 electronic journals.
Animal Sounds Library, with over 39,000 registers of birds and amphibians (9,219) mainly, but also from mammals (1,383), insects (342), fish (197) and reptiles (78)

Analytical Facilities

There are two molecular systematics laboratories, two laboratories with scanning electron microscopy and analytical facilities, a histological laboratory, a physiology laboratory, chamber for taphonomy studies, biological, molecular and geological samples preparation laboratories, a chemical analysis laboratory (atomic absorption, electrophoresis and X-ray diffraction and fluorescence), photography and digital image services. (RJB) scanning electron microscope, fluorescence microscope and image analysis laboratory, flow cytometer, growth and germination seed chamber, greenhouses for storing and research activities.

A unique aspect of the ES-TAF equipment includes electron microscope suite that includes the combination of ESEM, catholuminescence and two types of microanalyses: Wavelength dispersal spectrometer (WDS) and Energy dispersive spectrometer (EDS). WDS provides the most accurate quantitative microanalyses at the SEM and EDS a quick and high performance microanalyses, which may be applied on non-prepared (uncoated, non-cut or polished) specimens.

Along with the standard molecular facilities that would be expected in a modern research infrastructure ES-TAF has a laboratory devoted to the handling and amplification of ancient DNA and specialist technicians that supports all Users. Advanced molecular approaches are also used as well to study endangered species. Plus, a Physiology laboratory is fully equipped to carry out research in gamete biology and function, sperm-egg interaction, embryo development and micromanipulations and gamete cryopreservation. ES-TAF has a rapidly expanding DNA collection and cryobanking facilit

ES-TAF has a Field Station ‘El Ventorrillo’ located in the Sierra de Guadarrama, about 60km from Madrid, consisting of two houses, semi-natural enclosures, basic laboratory equipment and a respirometry laboratory. Access is available for up to 24 Users simultaneously.

Research supported by the infrastructure

ES-TAF represents the leading institution in the study of biodiversity, systematics and evolutionary and conservation biology in Spain. ES-TAF research is carried out at the highest international level in Departments of: Biodiversity and Evolutionary Biology; Palaeobiology; Evolutionary Ecology; Mycology; Geology and Volcanology. This diversity of expertise facilitates the exchange of ideas across disciplines.

ES-TAF researchers assist governmental and regional conservation agencies in the implementation of the EC Habitat Directive, Bern and Barcelona Conventions, the Global Taxonomic Initiative (Convention on Biological Diversity), the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) as well as in the study and input to policy on conservation of endangered species.