The embryological collection houses specimens of approximately 600 vertebrate species in more than 3,000 alcohol jars as well as around 80,000 histological preparations of environmental stages of vertebrates and their reproductive organs. It originates mainly from the historical collections of A. A. W. Hubrecht and J. P. Hill. It is the largest and most significant collection of its kind.
A Treasure Trove for Comparative Embryologists
Richardson and Narraway called the embryological collection “a treasure trove for comparative embryology” (Int. J. Dev. Biol. 43, 1999). Given the unique wealth of material and the sheer number of photos and documents, this is certainly true. The collection was founded in the late 19th century by A.A.W. Hubrecht (Utrecht, the Netherlands). While in the early stages, the focus was on placentals (Eutheria and Metatheria), it became more comprehensive later by incorporating further collections, which contributed to its importance today.
A highly significant acquisition was the collection of J. P. Hill (London) around 1900. Its focus lies on Australian mammals, including a unique collection of monotreme specimens (Prototheria or egg-laying mammals).
Collections of particular significance are the histological collections of A. Dohrn ("Pisces“, "Amphibia", "Reptilia"), L. Bolk (Vertebrates) and W. Kückenthal (Cetacea), all of whom represent a comparative morphological approach. Furthermore, the embryological collection also contains histological material coming from more experimental approaches in evolutionary biology (e.g. Mangold, Spemann and Grüneberg).
As the alcohol collections will be moved into the East Wing, Its availability for research will be limited until probably October 2010