Currently, the mammal collection comprises more than 100,000 specimens. Its annual increment amounts to around 500 items. The first catalogue of acquisitions to the collection dates from the year 1806, however, many specimens date from an even earlier time. The collection is referenced in the scientific literature by the acronym NMW, derived from Naturhistorisches Museum Wien. The geographic scope of the collection is global, the Palaearctic Region is represented best.
The collection consists of skeletons, study skins, furs and stuffed specimens, as well as specimens preserved in alcohol. Study skins are uniformly prepared specimens for scientific purposes. Stuffed specimens are artfully finished for exhibition purposes. They show the animal in the most natural position possible. With ca. 9,000 specimens, the collection of mammals preserved in alcohol is relatively small; however, it is now in the process of being expanded in view of the fact that DNA for genetic studies is much easier to extract from specimens preserved in alcohol than from other material. Alcohol specimens can also be studied with respect to internal anatomy by means of modern imaging technology, e.g. µCT-scanning.
Study skins, skulls and the major part of the skeletons are stored in huge metal cases in systematic order. Stuffed specimens not on exhibition and skins are located in an air-conditioned basement storage area. The particularly valuable specimens of extinct mammal species (blue antelope, quagga, thylacine or Tasmanian tiger, Syrian onager and Somali wild ass) are also stored here for conservation purposes. Mounted skeletons and antlers, as well as whale skulls and skeletons, are stored in adapted basement rooms. A major focus of the collection comprises holocene mammal remains from cave floors. They constitute the most important source for studying the postglacial re-colonisation of the Eastern Alps by mammals. This material was collected mainly by Austrian speleologists.
Prof. Dr. habil. Frank E. Zachos
There are at the moment no collection-specific research services. However, our collection material can be analysed by means of the infrastructure of the Central Research Laboratories of the museum (genetics, µCT scanner etc.). We also help with the identification of mammalogical material.
Methods & Expertise for Research Infrastructure
Our expertise and research comprise the taxonomy, systematics and biogeography of mammals with a particular focus on Central European and African species as well as ungulates and small mammals. We use genetic, population genetic and morphological approaches, including geometric morphometrics and modern imaging techniques. Our theoretical focus is on the foundations of taxonomy and classification as well as the species problem in biology.