Zoological collection

Vertebratological collection

Contact person: Jan Sychra


Profesor Jan ZavřelOur collection of vertebrates was established soon after a Department of Zoology had been established at Masaryk University in 1920. From the beginning its main goal was to help young scientists in their studies. The first head of the Department, professor Jan Zavřel, established the collection in the form of dermoplastic (stuffed animals) and alcohol-preserved preparations and cared for its continuous enlargement. Individual preparations were obtained from various private collectors, museums and schools. The biggest part of the zoological collection was acquired from the former higher secondary military school in Hranice. However, the actual origin of most preserved specimens is nowadays unclear, only rarely the original date or further details are given (e.g. in the case of the preparation of African sacred ibis from 1913, which was made by the taxidermist Franz Kalkus from Vienna). For some specimens an age of 150 years or more can be assumed (e.g. anatomical preparations in glass cylinders).

Current status

Výuka ve sbírkáchAt present, the collection contains approx. 1500 specimens. Most of them are dermoplastic and skeletal preparations (i.e. stuffed animals and skeletons or their parts) – almost 800 items, mostly birds and mammals. Other specimens (more than 400 items) are preserved in a liquid medium in glass cylinders. These are fishes, amphibians and reptiles, in some cases also small mammals or special anatomical preparations. The rest of the collection consists of nearly 300 skins (see below) of birds and mammals; most of them are used directly in practical teaching. If we break up the collection according to the systematic position of its specimens, birds predominate, followed by fishes, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians. Least represented are other groups of chordates, especially tunicates.
Members of the Central European fauna predominate in the collection and thus our fauna is well covered, except the rarest species.

Kinds of vertebratological material

  • Dermoplastic preparationsDermoplastic preparations (for exposition purposes) – skinned animals (with skull and legs in birds, only feet in mammals) stuffed with various materials and formed with wires to the exposure position
  • Fish modelsSkin specimens (for teaching and research purposes) – preparation is the same, but finally the animals are left in straight position, making the skins more compact and easier to handle; for teaching purposes the smaller species are enclosed in glass tubes (protection against damage)
  • Fish models – real fish bodies are printed into silicone forms and then fiberglass models are created and hand-coloured
  • Preparations embedded in resinSkulls and skeletal preparations – skeletons from which soft tissues were removed (boiled, mechanically cleaned or consumed by insects); for teaching purposes the skulls are sometimes placed in plastic bags (especially in small species)
  • Preparations embedded in resin – to protect the specimens during the teaching process, skulls or entire dried small animals (e.g. amphibians) can be enclosed in resin, which protects them from mechanical damage and also (to some extent) preserved their original colouration
  • Glass cylinders with animals in liquid media – mainly cold-blooded vertebrates have been traditionally put in such cylinders; the animals are stored in various fixing mixtures, usually based on formaldehyde or alcohol (sometimes with glycerin)

Collection of invertebrates

Contact person: Jan Sychra

A collection of invertebrates has been also part of the material available to students since the beginnings of the Department. The form and extent of this collection has changed over the years. Formerly it contained also some specimens of historical importance. The present collection contains about 5000 items and is used strictly for teaching and study purposes at the Department. The invertebrate collection consists of several individual sub-collections, containing members of most of the known animal phyla.

  • The collection for basic lab coursesThe collection for basic lab courses serves for the teaching of compulsory courses, i.e. Invertebrate Phylogeny and Diversity or Animal Phylogeny and Diversity. This collection includes dozens of glass cylinders with invertebrates (of which more than half belong to marine animals), as well as permanent microscopic slides, dry material (e.g. mollusc shells), entomological boxes or boxes with small glass tubes, containing small insects. Material in the latter form is used also in field courses (e.g. Field Course in Zoology) and for examinations such as bachelor's or master's exams. Historical pictorial posters (still used for teaching) represent an integral part of the collection.
  • The entomological collectionThe entomological collection is used during entomological courses, i.e. Entomology (basic course), System and Phylogeny of Insects and Applied Entomology. The collection includes dozens of entomological boxes with comparative material of insect orders and their major representatives in the Czech Republic, with morphological and thematically focused preparations (e.g. pollinators, insects important in forestry or agriculture). These boxes are used either for teaching of entomological courses, or as comparative material for students dealing with the insects as part of their bachelor's, master's and Ph.D. theses. An alcohol collection of spiders is used for teaching arachnological courses.
  • The comparative collection of invertebratesThe comparative collection of invertebrates was created for the needs of students of hydrobiology, learning the identification of aquatic invertebrates and consequently specialising in particular taxonomic groups. It consists of a collection of small vial glass tubes (larger invertebrates), including alcohol-preserved specimens of insect adults (e.g. mayflies, stoneflies, caddisflies), permanent microscopic slides (e.g. chironomid larvae) and entomological collections (e.g. aquatic beetles). This comparative collection is also often used in identification courses; details can be found on the following web page: http://www.sci.muni.cz/zoolecol/hydrobio/sbirka

In addition to these collections, some more specialised comparative collections are being created from time to time, focusing on particular invertebrate taxa according to the specialisation of the present researchers and their students.