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

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Collections & Expertise

The collections of ES-TAF consist of about 8.6 million specimens including ca. 64,300 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
RJB, Herbaria 850,000 specimens of vascular plants.  150,000 specimens of cryptogams (including 80,000 fungi).  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.  More than 8,600 digitized images of type specimens, in addition 32,000 images of historical collections.
RJB A plant information system containing, 1,1 million records offering distribution maps, images, common names , and others associated data concerning Spanish vascular plants (Anthos)
MNCN/RJB 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.
MNCN DNA samples, frozen and freeze-dried tissues and specimens for molecular analyses.78,000 catalogued samples of more than 55,000 specimens and more than 4,900 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.
MNCN, Geology Minerals (about 15,000) and rocks from Iberian Peninsula • Balearic and Canary Islands • some European mining districtsGeological samples from Historical Expeditions (18th-20th centuries.) from Chile, Peru and Mexico, including rocks of Heuland brothers and Alexander von HumboldtCollection of 300 fallen meteorites from Europe and AmericaQuaternary research, from global geological environmental changes to palaeontological studies.
MNCN, Palaeontology Vertebrates, invertebrates and botanical fossils which cover all geologic ages.  The biggest department nationally with around 1 million specimens.  International in scope, ranging from the Proterozoic to the Pleistocene, and including specimens from every continent; nevertheless it is strongest for Spanish localities mainly collected since the 20th century.  Historical collections of Juan Vilanova y Piera, Agustín Gónzález de Linares, Eduardo Hernández Pacheco, Ernesto Caballero-Bellido, José Royo-Gómez, Federico Gómez-Llueca, Bermudo Meléndez Meléndez, and Josefa Menénez Amor.  The palaeovertebrates collection includes a significant range of Neogene mammals, and the important collections of Atapuerca, Cerro de los Batallones and mammals of the Spanish Cenozoic.  Particular strengths of the fossil invertebrates collection are:  Palaeozoic material from Asturias and Ossa Morena, Jurassic material from Sierra de Cameros, Cretaceous-Palaeogene material from Guipúzcoa, and Miocene material from Muro (Mallorca).  Systematically, the greatest strength of the collection is the Iberian material of Ammonoidea from the Jurassic to the Cretaceous, in addition to Cretaceous Bivalvia, Cenozoic Mollusca, Palaeogene Foraminifera, Devonian Brachiopoda, and Cretaceous Echinodemata.Particular strengths of the Palaeobotany collection are:  Carboniferous floras from the Cantabrian Basin, Cretaceous woods and leaf floras from Castilla-León and Madrid regions, Neogene leaf and pollen floras from Catalonia, and recent and fossil diatom algae collections.  Systematically the greatest strengths are in the Carboniferous Pterydophyta and Pteridospermophyta and Cretaceous-Tertiary.
MNCN, 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 GIS laboratory can provide both georeferencing and geographical treatement of faunistic information.
MNCN / RJB 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 43,377 registers of birds (28,190) and amphibians (13,000) mainly, but also from mammals (1,402), insects (806), fish (201) and reptiles (81).A digital library offering more than 2600 digitized botanical books (›6000 volumes) available through Internet.

Analytical Facilities

There are: (MNCN) one molecular systematics laboratory, one laboratory of molecular identification, one laboratory with scanning electron microscopy and analytical facilities  (It also includes RAMAN Microscope DXR Thermo Fisher, CONFOCAL Microscope LEICA DM5500Q, MICROCTSCAn-XT-160 NIKON, BECKMAN COULTER LS 230, Simultaneous TGA and DTA PERKIN ELMER THERMAL ANALYSIS), a histological laboratory, a laboratory of ecophysiology, 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: 2 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, and Catholuminescence (CL)  is a non-destructive analysis technique that makes a spectral analysis of the luminescence which has the sample and emits electrons when bombarded by providing analytical and structural information of the sample which may be applied on non-prepared (uncoated, non-cut or polished) specimens.

The service also includes a confocal microscope with Raman spectroscopy, providing a molecular chemical analysis, another Spectral Confocal fluorescence Microscopy, allows the study of fluorescently labeled samples, making optical sections of samples, and CT-scan, X-ray computed tomography, and support equipment such as thermal analysis DTA / TGA (Perkin Elmer) and an analyzer the particle size distribution by laser diffraction (Beckman Coulter), all provide service to many applications

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 facility.

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, a respirometry laboratory and a recent laboratory of thermal ecophyisiology for small vertebrates. Access is available for up to 24 Users simultaneously.

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

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 and Geology. This diversity of expertise facilitates the exchange of ideas across disciplines.

ES-TAF researchers assist governmental Ministries 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.