Plant fossil donated to the National Museum. Photo: Handerson Oliveira
Plant fossil donated to the National Museum. Photo: Handerson Oliveira

O National museum of Rio de Janeiro has just received a reinforcement for its collection, almost six years after the fire which destroyed most of the 20 million items it housed. Through a partnership between Instituto Inclusartiz and Friends of the National Museum Association (SAMN), the institution received a donation of more than a thousand fossils belonging to the Swiss-German collector Burkhard Pohl.

Brokered by Frances Reynolds, president of Inclusartiz, the initiative brings new impetus so that the institution can once again have a robust collection when it reopens in 2026.

Thanks to Reynolds' financial and logistical mobilization, a group of six Brazilian paleontologists and students had the opportunity to carry out, in August 2023, the first joint excavation excursion in the Northwest of the United States, exploring the lands rich in dinosaur fossils from the Formation Hell Creek, in the states of Wyoming and Montana, under the guidance of Interprospekt Group. Two students on the team began developing a study on specific fossil specimens during the visit. One of them will use the data collected on a marine reptile in their doctoral project, and the idea is that they will return to the field to continue their research.

Some highlights from the collection:

– The holotype – reference specimen used to describe new species – of Tetrapodophis, an extensively studied unique fossil. Pohl explains: “Some argue that it represents the oldest species of snake, positioned as the transitional form between lizards and snakes, suggesting South America – specifically Brazil – as the birthplace of the first snakes.”

– While Brazil has the distinction of being the country where the most pterosaur species have been discovered, the donation adds at least two pterosaur skulls that have not yet been studied, with the potential to become holotypes.

– Two dinosaur fossils, probably small dromaeosaurids not yet described in the scientific literature. They are unique skeletons.

In addition to these specimens, there is the complete skull of the pterosaur Tupandactylus imperator, one of the best preserved ever found. A reconstruction of the life of this flying reptile was made and, together with the fossil, will be an important attraction in the Museum's new exhibitions. In addition to this pterosaur, several other specimens are already being studied by researchers and students at the National Museum/UFRJ.

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