Zoological collection of the Mammal Research Institute PAS

General information

Zoological collection of the Mammal Research Institute PAS in Białowieża comprise about 190 000 of mammal specimens. The collections are effect of the long-term studies on mammal fauna in Białowieża Primeval Forest, Białowieża National Park, and generally in Poland. Some part of collection (specimens from various groups of mammal world fauna) makes the reference material in many studies.  

The series of skulls and skeletons of the European bison (Bison bonasus) from free living herd in Białowieża Primeval Forest is extremely precious component of the collection.  

The collection data base includes 1094 records for European bison and crossbreed (Bison bonasus x Bos taurus) (the actual state from 31.12.2008).

Big series of small mammals from Białowieża Primeval Forest constitute important part of the collection. Also materials from Poland have large share in the collection. However in the last years, the collection was enlarged about numerous specimens big mammals, particularly about carnivore mammals (in case of protected mammals appropriate permissions are obtained).

Other precious elements in the collection include some groups: (1) small mammal fauna from Białowieża National Park and Białowieża Proimeval Forest (near 116 000 specimens); (2) mammals from Biebrza National Park; (3) series of hare skulls from former Poznań and Białystok province; (4) series of red fox skulls from whole Poland (about 1500 specimens);  (5) pellets from owls and other raptors from Białowieża Primeval Forest (about 2000 items); (6) material from composition of diet analyzes in carnivore mammal guild in Białowieża Primeval Forest (about 4000 items).

Curator of the collection is Dr. habil. Elwira Szuma.

Collection and education

Collection specimens’ are used in education objectives. Periodically some part of collection store is presented for groups of students, PhD students visiting Institute. In order to that the showroom on Polish mammal fauna and review of biodiversity of world mammals is organized.

During every year Summer School the specimens are used in laboratory and field training. Students learn identification of mammals on skull and dental characters. In order of that the osteologic material from collection are demonstrated and used.

Collection and research

Based on collection materials are realised different studies, among other things in evolutionary morphology, functional morphology, ecology, phylogeography, phylogeny, evolutionary genetic. Some project are realised in cooperation MRI Staff and some foreign researcher. In last five years the following works exploited collection materials were published:

W. Jędrzejewski, W. Branicki, C. Veit, I. Medugorac, M. Pilot, A. N. Bunevich, B. Jędrzejewska, K. Schmidt, J. Theuerkauf, H. Okarma, R. Gula, L. Szymura, M. FÖrster. 2005: “Genetic diversity and relatedness within packs in an intensely hunted population of wolves Canis lupus.” Acta Theriologica 50: 3-22.

L. Rychlik, M. G. Ramalhinho, P. D. Polly. 2006: “Response to environmental factors and competition: skull, mandible, and tooth shape in Polish Water shrews (Neomys, Soricidae, Mammalia)”. Journal of Zoological Systematics and Evolutionary Research 44: 339-351.

A. M. Wójcik, P. D. Polly, M. D. Sikorski, J. M. Wójcik. 2006: “Selection in a cyclic population: differential response among skeletal traits” Evolution 60: 1925-1935.

J. M. Wójcik, P. D. Polly, A. M. Wójcik, M. D. Sikorski. 2007: “Epigenetic variation of the common shrew, Sorex araneus, in different habitats.” Russian Journal of Theriology 6: 43-49.

E. Szuma. 2008: “Geography of sexual dimorphism in the tooth size of the red fox Vulpes vulpes (Mammalia, Carnivora).” Journal of Zoological Systematic and Evolutionary Research 46: 73-81.

E. Szuma. 2008: “Evolutionary and climatic factors affecting tooth size in the red fox Vulpes vulpes in the Holarctic”. Acta Theriologica 53: 289-332.

D. G. Drucker, A. Bridault, K. A. Hobson, E. Szuma, H. Bocherens. 2008: “Can carbon-13 in large herbivores reflect canopy effect in temperate and boreal ecosystems? Evidence from modern and ancient ungulates.” Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 266: 69-82.

J. M. Wójcik, A. Kawałko, M. Tokarska, M. Jaarola, P. Vallenback, C. Pertoldi. 2009: “Post-bottleneck mtDNA diversity in a free-living population of European bison: implications for conservation.” Journal of Zoology 277: 81-87.

M. Tokarska, A. Kawałko, J.M. Wójcik, C. Pertoldi. 2009: “Genetic variability in the European bison (Bison bonasus) population from Białowieża forest over 50 years”. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 97: 801-809.

J.M. Wójcik, A. Kawałko, S. Marková, J.B. Searle, P.  Kotlík. 2010: “Phylogeographic signatures of northward post-glacial colonization from high-latitude refugia: a case study of bank voles using museum specimens”. Journal of Zoology 281: 249–262. DOI: 10.1111/j.1469-7998.2010.00699.x


Information about the mammal collection store’s from MRI PAS are visible in the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF). GBIF is an international organisation to provide free and universal access to data regarding the world’s biodiversity. To learn more about GBIF itself, visit the GBIF Communications Portal:

GBIF national node 

A new GBIF Data Portal (Beta-test version) is now online at GBIF Portal 

The GBIF Network already provides access to over 40 million records of occurrences of different organisms. MRI joined GBIF Network in 2004. We provide data on specimens included in our mammal collection. The specimens come mainly from Białowieża Forest and other regions of Poland. Nearly all species of Polish mammals are represented in this collection. Some groups are represented by numerous series of specimens and observations (e.g. insectivores, rodents, European bison, hares, or red fox).

Mammal collection provided by MRI

Number of records: 95,090

Taxon count: 164

Species name Number of specimens
Species name Number of specimens