Museum National d’Histoire Naturelle (MNHN)

Collections & Expertise

The collections of FR-TAF comprise an estimated 70 million specimens and house approximately 835,000 primary types and reference specimens of natural history. These collections were established on a professional scientific ground for applied and fundamental research as early as the late 18th century and have been developed to an outstanding degree during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries following the numerous investigations made in all continents (mainly in Africa and Asia) but also in all seas and oceans (through oceanographic explorations). MNHN, with its unique national status, is also considered as the normal repository for all scientifically significant collections made by other French research bodies (universities, IRD, CNRS, IFREMER, etc).

Most of the collections are arranged in such way that desired specimens can easily be communicated and examined. Some of the collections (e.g. Fish) are entirely digitized, some others with some important progress in that field (herbarium, entomology, minerals). The main strength is the number of types that are crucial for the modern taxonomist and a wealth of historical collections that are invaluable in investigations concerning the biodiversity changes during the last three centuries. This makes them invaluable for conservation management planning and a key research infrastructure to better document climate change and all new challenges emerging in the field of biodiversity. In addition to the specimens themselves, the MNHN houses state-of-the-art equipment, some of it unique in European museums; for example the karyotyping FISH (Fluorescence In Situ Hybridization) imaging workstations, mass spectrometry and RMN laboratories for natural products identification and an up-to-date morphometric laboratory. MNHN houses the only national library devoted exclusively to natural history with online catalogue and access to major bibliographic databases.

Department Collection highlights and staff expertise
Botany Early herbaria from Tournefort, Jussieu, Adanson etc.– all witness of the plant realm in Europe during the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries.
Madasgcan fauna
Most extensive herbarium in France with special emphasis on tropical floras (Africa, Madagascar, South-East Asia, Caribbean and South America)
Culture collection of living ascomycetes
Toxic microalga; Convolvulaceae; Anonaceae; Leguminosae; Mimosaceae; Aristolochiaceae; Graminae, Gentianaceae, Monimiaceae; Elaeocarpaceae; Apocynaceae; Malagasy flora; Guiana flora, West African Floras
Bryophytes as pollution bio-indicators, tropical russulaceae fungi, ascomycetes and deuteromycetes
Entomology First entomological collection in Europe (43 millions specimens) with special strength in: Coleoptera (20 millions); Hemiptera (7.3 millions)
African, Central and West palaerctic hemiptera (aphids, coccids, planthoppers, bugs), cicadas of the world, South-America orthoptera, non-insect hexapoda (Collembola), mites, copepods, soil and cave microarthropods
Mineralogy Unique collection of frozen oceanic deep sea cores (from the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans) for varied geologic analysis
First world collection of type and historical specimens of minerals with the original Hauÿ and Rome de l’Isle specimens used to define the laws of crystallography
Météorites and gems collection. Antarctic biodiversity collections and surveys
Meteorites, and gems
Palaeontology Types and figured specimens of fossils by Cuvier, Agassiz
Reference collection of primary type of microfossils by D'Orbigny
Paleozoic early vertebrates from Spitzbergen and Morocco
Mesozoic Mammals and Mammals from France, Europe (Greece, Germany), Turkey and North Africa
Fish fossils from France, North Africa, Middle East Asia and Madagascar
Quaternary faunas from France with palaeoanthropological remains
All important fossils recently found in France
Reference collections of Radiolarians, Coccoliths and nannofossils
Fossil agnathans, placoderms, proboscidians, South American marsupials, dinosaurs, marine reptiles, fossil insects, foraminifers, radiolarians, ancient DNA, fossil hominids
Zoology Molluscs and plants by Lamarck
Early collections of animals and plants made during the explorations of the Pacific Ocean in the nineteenth century (Western Australia)
Extensive comparative anatomy collection of birds and mammals
Palearctic, Asiatic and African collections: with special emphasis on deep sea faunas (molluscs, annelids, bryozoans) from oceanic vents
Micro-mammals; reptiles and insects
South-East Asian amphibians (Laos and Vietnam)
Top world collections in Orthopteroidea, Collembola, Spiders, Crustacea
Cryo-preserved collection of animal tissues and collections for DNA analysis
Animal and plants from French Guiana, New Caledonia and the French Antilles
Millipedes, spiders, terrestrial and marine gastropod molluscs, bryozoans, micromammals, , anurans, snakes, percomorph fish, deep sea invertebrates, annelids

Analytical Facilities and Services

Scanning Electrom Microscopy

  • 2 SEM microscopes: JEOL 840 SM and JEOL JSM 25 S III coupled with computerized imaging systems
  • 2 Transmission electronic microscopes: Hitachi 600, Hitachi 7100, both coupled with computer imaging station
  • 1 Low Vacuum SEM: Jeol 1410 LV, LIGHT MICROSCOPY, 3 Leitz microscope with CCD colour video camera (Nikon 5000 , Olympus )
  • 2 Karyotyping FISH (Fluorescence In Situ Hybridization) imaging workstations
  • 2 SEM microscopes: JEOL 840 SM and JEOL JSM 25 S III coupled with computerized image analysis

Mineralogy and analytical equipment

SRX multi-channel diffractometer INEL; VEGA-II Variable Pressure Scanning Electron Microscope, Electronic microprobes SX50 and SX 100 Cameca and Raman microprobe

Molecular systematic laboratories -Special safe room for ancient DNA extraction and PCR preparation. Room for DNA extraction from collection specimens and Automated sequencers ABI PRISM 3100 (4 capillaries) for DNA RNA sequencing, ABI PRISM 310 DNA, Analyzer devoted to microsatellite

Mass Spectrometry

2 Thermo-Fisher mass spectometers: one for carbonates and one for organic matter

Information Technology and Access

Morphometry Laboratory

6 PCs devoted to morphometric studies with access to all the recent morphometric software, 2D and 3D digitalization facilities among which a Polhemus 3 draw, a reflex system, a microscope, a stereomicroscope equipped with video and numeric cameras together with morphometrics softwares and libraries. (http://www.mnhn.fr/morphometrics/home.html) and 3D image.