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Museum National d’Histoire Naturelle


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 imaging workstations for SEM with an EDX detector for microanalyses (NSS software) ; NANOSIMS ; CT-SCAN platform ; mass spectrometry and RMN laboratories for natural products identification and an up-to-date morphometric laboratory. MNHN houses the only national library (approx. 1 million documents) devoted exclusively to natural history with online catalogue and access to major bibliographic databases.

The MNHN also provides access to its Marine station in Concarneau (2700 m2, 1300 m2 of aquariums). The MNHN marine station offers access to marine resources and associated facilities. 5h by train from Paris, the station offers access to the shore to study various substrata (rocks, mud…), and allows sampling of extremely various fauna and flora, which can be stored in aquariums. It is equipped with an 8.5m boat and a smaller one allowing sampling at sea. The station also provides access to a specific herbarium and the algae collections of Crouan. It is equipped with sequencing (not covered by SYNTHESYS), sclerochronology, cell culture, and a SEM platform will be installed in the summer of 2016. Visitors are hosted at the Station’s guest house. More information can be found at

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 million specimens) with special strength in: Coleoptera (20 millions); Hemiptera (7.3 millions) from Africa, Central and West palaerctic areas (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.Meteorites and gems collection. Antarctic biodiversity collections and surveys.

Meteorites, and gems.

Palaeontology Types and figured specimens of fossils by Cuvier, AgassizReference collection of primary type of microfossils by D’OrbignyPaleozoic 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 (DNA analyses are not provided by way of SYNTHESYS)

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

  • JEOL 840 A microscope, coupled with computerized imaging systems (SEMAFORE software);
  • Hitachi SU 3500 microscope, coupled with EDX detector for microanalyses (NSS sofitware);
  • Critical point facility EMITECH K 850;
  • Metalizer Jeol FJC-1200 ;
  • HITACHI H-7100 microscope coupled with computerized imaging systems (CCD HAMAMATSU camera coupled with a PC with AMT software for acquisition and images treatment);
  • 5 ultramicrotomes (1 LKB 8800 4 Reichert-Jung ultracut E) + 3 Knife Maker LKB.

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

Mass Spectrometry

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

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

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. ( and 3D image.