The major purpose of the mammal study collection and other zoological study collections is to document the existence of species via specimens and their associated data, to serve scientific research as reference material for determinations and as comparative material. The extensive mammal study collection, which is housed by the Slovenian Museum of Natural History, currently contains approximately 18,000 study specimens or inventory units. It is located in our depot in the BTC Complex in Ljubljana. Apart from material collected in Slovenia, the collection includes large series of specimens from the territories of Turkey and the former Yugoslavia. Our Museum also presents material from some other European countries and, to a lesser extent, from North America and Asia. Numerically, the collection is dominated by rodents (family Rodentia) with more than three quarters of all specimens (approx. 78 percent). Hedgehogs, shrews and moles (grouped in the past under the order of insectivores) are presented in the collection by approx. 14 percent of bats, 5 percent of large mammals and 2.5 percent of all inventory units.

List of species represented in the study collection (August, 2010)
Interesting features from the mammal study collection

In view of the type of stored material or the method of preparation, the greater part of the mammal study collection is composed of dry material, specifically taxidermy skulls. There are also many taxidermy skins and, to a lesser extent, the postcranial skeletons of specimens. Preserved specimens (kept entirely in alcohol) make up about ten percent of the entire material in this collection. Although there are only few of the latter, this type of material is significant, considering that it largely preserves the external image of an animal (shape, colouration and size), and is also very suitable for the extraction of DNA – samples for genetic analysis. Therefore, it is the skull that is most often preserved among the specimens in the collection, for which there are several reasons. If skulls are suitably mounted, they will survive in collections for a very long period of time. The skull is a complex structure, carrying a large number of characters that can be of great help during the process of determination. Based on diagnostic signs on the skull and dentition, it is possible to distinguish even mammal species that are externally very alike. Based on the wear of the teeth, the age of the specimens can be determined, too.

The mammal study collection is catalogued digitally as well. The collection is managed (inquiries about certain materials, their borrowing, reviews of the representation of the material in the collection according to taxonomic affiliation, localities, type of preserved material, etc.) on the basis of the BiodivDB computer database. For some materials from the collection, digital photos are also ready for use in the database. On the one hand, this is a safety measure for storing information on exceptional and unique museums and, on the other hand, it can largely compensate for the potentially risky borrowing of material for research purposes.


The Slovenian Museum of Natural History houses a study and exhibition collection of birds and an oological collection.


This collection, dating back to the first half of the 20th century, is the legacy of Dr Janko Ponebšek. It comprises around 1,500 eggs and is a valuable comparative material, since it speaks of the faunal conditions at the time of its creation. The material originates predominantly from the territory of Slovenia, with only a minor obtained from other parts of the Palearctic region. Due to the lack of exhibition space, the collection is not on display but stored in the depot.


This study collection comprises over 5,000 taxidermy bird skins, belonging to more than 200 different bird species. The collection dates back to the Pre-First World War, with the oldest specimen dating back to 1905. The greater part of the material originates from the territory of Slovenia, some from the territory of the former Yugoslavia, and the rest even from other areas of the Palearctic region. The material has been systematically collected largely in the course of various faunistic researches, while currently the main inflow of material is dealt with by the Museum on the basis of the Regulation on the Protection of Rare and Endangered Animal Species and current European legislation. The collection is stored in the museum depot.


Taxidermy mounts of birds are on display in the main exhibition area of the Slovenian Museum of Natural History. The collection comprises about 350 specimens belonging to 235 different bird species. The collection dates back to the mid-19th century and is occasionally renewed and supplemented with newer material, particularly the material acquired by the Museum on the basis of the Regulation on the Protection of Rare and Endangered Animal Species. It is presented partly according to the birds’ habitats (forest, mountains, marsh, field and meadow), partly according to systematics. It is deployed during expert guidance, both for visitors as well as schoolchildren and students. Occasionally, expert guidance is provided in accordance to special wishes of groups on the chosen topic, accompanied by video screening.

Reptiles and amphibians

Herpetology is the branch of zoology dealing with reptiles (Reptilia) and amphibians (Amphibia). The first specimens of the extensive herpetological collection, which is housed in the Slovenian Museum of Natural History, originate from the early 19th century with the founding of the Carniola Regional Museum. The major part of the collection was set up after World War II by Savo Brelih, the founder of Slovenian herpetology at the time. Currently, the collection contains more than 5,800 inventory units of reptiles, whereas amphibians are represented with a smaller number (243). The collection comprises most of the lizards of the Adriatic islands (Lacertidae family), as well as other reptile species from the former Yugoslavia in exemplary numbers. Native species are particularly valuable. Over 600 reptile specimens obtained in the territory of Slovenia are an indispensable source of information for the study of zoogeography, evolution and systematics of this interesting group of animals. Furthermore, the collection includes specimens from other European countries, Asia and some other parts of the world.


Fish collecting for the museum purposes was sporadic before 1945. Animals were preserved in liquid or mounted as dry, taxidermy specimens. During the rearrangement of the exhibition collections in the 1950s, several taxidermy mounts were deployed as exhibits. Their labels, however, were lost and the specimens lost their scientific significance. In 2004, the Slovenian Museum of Natural History acquired a study collection of fishes from Dr Meta Povž from the Slovenian Fisheries Research Institute. This is the largest study collection of fishes in the territory of Slovenia, comprising predominantly material from Slovenia and the Adriatic basin of Croatia and, to a lesser extent, from Serbia, Italy and Macedonia. The material was collected between 1981 and 2005; it was partly frozen but mostly preserved in a formaldehyde solution. In 2004, the collection author began arranging the material and placing the animals in alcohol, thus providing for their long-term durability. Currently, the collection is fully standardised as well as digitally catalogued, comprising 206 inventory units of freshwater fishes with about 5,350 specimens. The majority of them belong to the carp family (Cyprinidae). The study collection also includes few mounted sea fishes and Ukrainian Brook Lamprey. At the end of 2007, the Museum acquired, for good, the extensive zoological collection from the Department of Biology of the Biotechnical Faculty of the University of Ljubljana, which also comprises a collection of wet fish mounts.

Borrowing of material from study collections

Material from the vertebrate study collections of the Slovenian Museum of Natural History is available for research purposes to various research institutions and other expert communities.

According to a prior agreement with the Museum management or competent curator.

Any borrowing of material from the Museum collections has to be approved by the competent curator of the Vertebrate Department. The request, with a brief description of the purpose of the research and the methods used should be addressed to the Department head or curators. The material can be borrowed for a period of up to six months, but this can be extended upon a written request before the end of the loan period. If the borrowed material is not returned on time, the Museum shall file a report with the relevant institution. Any further borrowing of the material will also be refused until the material has been returned in full. Specimens, or their parts, cannot be transferred to another institution during the loan period without the Museum’s written permission. If specimens from the collection are cited in a scientific publication, a reference to the source of the material is mandatory. Authors are requested to send the Museum a copy of any publication of the research dealing with the material from the Museum’s collection. Photographs of borrowed material may be published with the Museum’s written permission and with a mandatory reference to the source of the material. Any use of the material for commercial purposes is prohibited without the Museum’s written permission.

The material, which is at a certain time studied by the Museum curators, is temporarily not available for loan. Type specimens and specimens represented in collections in small numbers can be borrowed only exceptionally. Researchers can view this material in the Museum depot.

Appropriate storage conditions for the borrowed material must be provided during the loan period; it must be protected against possible mechanical, chemical and biological harmful factors. Skeletal material, skins and taxidermy mounts have to be protected against dust, pests and moisture. Wet mounts should be stored in 75% ethanol and not placed in other chemicals. Neither should the material be dried, but stored in a dark place. Labels or markings should not be removed from the specimens; it is forbidden to change any kind of information on the labels. The handling of the material should be as careful as possible owing to its fragility and sensitivity. The use of any invasive method (such as taking tissue samples for genetic research) on any specimen from the collection is only possible with the Museum’s or responsible curator’s written approval. During transport or when sent by post, the material should be adequately packed and protected against mechanical damages, moisture and dust.

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