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Naturalis Biodiversity Center (NBC)

Naturalis Biodiversity Center

The Naturalis Biodiversity Center is a merger of the Zoological Museum of the University of Amsterdam (ZMA), National Herbarium of the Netherlands (NHN) with the National Natural History Museum (NNM) in Leiden.

Collections & Expertise

NL-TAF is based on large and well-documented scientific collections of zoological, botanical, palaeontological and geological specimens originating from the collections of herbaria formerly housed at the universities of Leiden, Utrecht and Amsterdam and from zoological, paleontological and geological collections of the former Zoological Museum of the University of Amsterdam and the National Natural History Museum. They comprise a total of about 37 million specimens, containing 280,000 primary types. Unique is the extraordinary coverage of the Malesian region. World-class strengths are numerous.
The physical arrangement and accessibility of the collections are of the highest standards. Through focused digitization efforts many of the important groups (both scientifically as for society) in the collections are completely accessible digitally, e.g. types at the former NHN collections, fishes at the former NNM collections, and several groups of invertebrates at the collections of the former ZMA. Altogether, the databases add up to over 4 million records. Through external funding Naturalis is currently digitizing a large part (several million objects) of its collection.

Expertise: NL-TAF scientists are leading experts in a variety of zoological, botanical, mycological, microbiological and geological disciplines. They are at the forefront of a wide range of biodiversity assessment projects and biodiversity informatics developments. NL-TAF scientists are experts in combining collection-based, observational, chronological, GIS, and functional ecological data, having at hand several centuries-old records of several detailed monitoring projects, comprising millions of records. The NCB Naturalis e-Flora initiative aims at providing highly atomised high-quality floristic data to a variety of users (citizen scientists, institutional users, and other stakeholders). This data is obtained through digitalisation and XML mark-up of Flora Malesiana and Flore du Gabon, and is made available through dataportals developed during the EDIT project and hosted by the Botanic Garden Botanic Museum Berlin.

NL-TAF has several specialists working on tropical floras, but also on European mycology and global phycology and bryology. Disciplines such as evo-devo, horizontal genomics, biogeography and bioinformatics are part of its standard approach of systematic biological research. For transfer of knowledge NL-TAF offers a wide range of courses for students at different parts of their scientific career. NL-TAF always welcomes international (PhD-) students and scientist to visit the collections and collaborate with the scientific staff.
The scientific and technical staff is trained to support visiting scientists, primarily in joint research projects and are dedicated to supporting Users, which is reflected in the internal procedures that provide quality and efficiency and promote optimal results. In addition, the electronic publishing facilities are open to Users and enable worldwide dissemination of scientific results.

Facilities: include well-equipped molecular biology laboratories, with an ‘ancient DNA facility’ and DNA-barcoding pipeline, information technology and bio-informatics units, and excellent libraries. The ancient DNA laboratory allows for the analysis of DNA from old museum and herbarium specimens, fossil material, and forensic samples. The laboratories house the complete range of equipment and facilities for histology, biochemical analysis, molecular sequencing, primer and micro-array development, transgenic facilities, transmission and scanning microscopy, and other physical instrumentation. Special laboratory teams support the use of these facilities.


The large libraries that serve NL-TAF belong to the best in Europe. They comprise all taxonomic, theoretical and technical literature that is essential for scientists working in the facility.

Department Collection highlights and staff expertise
Botany Herbarium: 4,271,000 seed plants (incl. over 30,000 types); 260,000 ferns and fern allies (incl. over 3,900 types); 480,000 mosses and liverworts (incl. over 4,000 types); 250,000 algae (incl. 6,000 types); 350,000 fungi (incl. 2,500 types); 135,000 lichens; 6,000 myxomycota (slime moulds).Special collections: The herbarium houses several historical collections dating back to 1545 (En Tibi Perpetuis Ridentum Floribus Hortum).The spirit collection of the herbarium contains about 52,000 specimens. The wood collection consists of 119,000 samples and we house a gall collection of 12,000 specimens.Living collections: The historical Hortus botanicus in Leiden (1593) is part of the National Herbarium of the Netherlands.Staff expertise: wood anatomy, pollen morphology, Asiatic Euphorbiaceae, tropical plant biogeography, fungal soil diversity, mycoheterotrophic plants, forensic botany, e-floras, Arctic and Macaronesian bryophytes. ethnobotany
Entomology Coleoptera: in quantity and quality (many type specimens) one of the best beetle collections in the world. Systematically and geographically some of the highlights are the Cetoniids, the Scarabeoidea and beetles from the Indo-Australian region. Further highlights are the Hymenoptera from SE Asia (with the Braconidae being one of the largest in the world), the Diptera, Lepidoptera (Indonesia), Microlepidoptera, and Odonata.Staff expertise particularly concerns: Diptera, Staphilinoid beetles, Odonata, Microlepidoptera, Chalcid wasps, Spiders
Mineralogy NBC houses an extensive collection of minerals that consists of a systematic collection, a regional collection with minerals from all over the world, including minerals from the Netherlands, a gem collection, and meteorites.  In the mineral collection, the emphasis lies on silicates; the gem collection, which includes the gems donated by King William I, provides invaluable reference material for natural gemstones. The collection is used for research and also as a reference for applied research in the context of the Netherlands Gemmological  Laboratory, part of NBC.Staff expertise: mineralogy, gemmology, emerald, sapphire, pearls, certification
Palaeontology World-famous 19th century Dubois Collection: more than 40.000 fossils from Pleistocene vertebrates of Indonesia. Pleistocene vertebrates from The Netherlands and surroundings (North Sea), including the largest collection of woolly mammoth bones in the world, with samples of woolly rhino, bisons, giant deer, cave hyena and cave lion, all dating to about 50.000 years BP. The Tegelen (Tiglian) collection covering over 5000 dental Late Pliocene elements of small mammals and numerous remains of reptiles and amphibians. The Gargano collection of Neogene mammals, being the largest in the world, with tens of thousands of fossils. Collections of unbalanced endemic island faunas of vertebrate fossils from Flores, Sulawesi, Cyprus, Mallorca and Crete. The Martin Collection of fossil shells from the Cenozoic of Java, containing almost 2000 type lots, which are the basis for the scientific names of many molluscs from the Indo-Pacific. The Miste Collection from the famous locality ‘Miste’ near Winterswijk, The Netherlands, being evidence of a subtropical fauna during the Middle Miocene of the North Sea Basin area with over 500 species of molluscs. Fossil shells of over 600 species from the Dutch beaches and estuaries. The Reid & Reid Collection of fossil seeds which marks the boundary between the Tertiair and Quartair.Staff expertise: benthic Foraminifera, Mollusca, Paleozoic and Mesozoic echinoids and crinoids, Neogene insectivores, Paleobotany, metamorphic geology
Zoology The mammal and bird collections are rich in (sometimes unique) extinct and rare species. The 19th century Madagascar collection of lemurs is of a great scientific importance, as is the osteological collection of dolphins and whales. The collection of freshwater and marine fishes from the Indonesian archipelago, collected and described by Pieter Bleeker between 1840-1860 is of great scientific importance. Of more recent date is the collection of Lake Victoria cichlids. This collection of Haplochromine cichlids contains hundreds of undescribed species, some of which recently became extinct as a result of the introduction of the Nile Perch.The herpetological collection goes back to the beginning of the 19th century. It includes material mainly from South East Asia and the Amazonian region, as well as several valuable collections from other localities. The oldest Asian material dates from the1820s. Important collections from Africa, Central and South America and Indonesia have been added to the museum collection all through the last two centuries. Many new species have been described based on this material.Shrimps, crabs and lobsters from Southeast Asia, the Northeast Atlantic and the Caribbean Sea are among the highlights of the Crustacean collections. During the last two decades research focussed on symbiotic shrimps.The collection of stony corals started to develop since the 1920’s. Most material is from Indonesia. The collection of Fungiidae may be considered as the most comprehensive worldwide. Also the collection of soft corals (Alcyonacaea) can be considered the largest of the world.An important part of the Coelenterate collection consists of Hydrozoa.NBC houses the largest collection of Triclad flatworms in the world, comprising, among others, about 30.000 glass slides.The large collections of the “Siboga Expedition’’ (1899-1900) provide a baseline for biodiversity studies Indonesian waters.Staff expertise notably covers Triclad flatworms, Triturus newts, tropical land snails, Corals, Sponges, Caridean Shrimps, groundwater Crustaceans, non-marine Gastropods
Library The library is one of the founding members of the EBHL (European Botanical and Horticultural Libraries group). The collection consists of about 110,000 books, 108,000 journal volumes, 300,000 reprints, 90,000 microfiches and 40,000 plant illustrations. At the moment the library holds more than 800 journal subscriptions and exchanges. The pictorial collection of the Herbarium includes about 40,000 icones. The valuable and historical collection (about 3,000 sheets) includes the original watercolors and drawings from the 17th century onwards.

Institution info

Contact Hannco Bakker:

Leiden, The Netherlands


TAF Contact

Hannco Bakker

Leiden, The Netherlands