Vertebrate collections


The Fossil Vertebrate Collection amounts to over 20 thousand finds, of which more than half continental mammals of the Pliocene and Pleistocene of Tuscany.

An important testimony of the great Pliocene marine transgression, and therefore of the rising of the seas, is made up by important specimens of marine mammals: whales, dolphins and sirenians collected in Tuscany from the early nineteenth century until the most recent acquisition, a whale skeleton excavated in 2007 in Orciano Pisano (Pisa).

Specimens typical of a forest environment with a hot and humid climate, including tapirs (Tapirus arvernensis) and bears (Ursus minimus), come from the deepest lignitiferous levels of the upper Valdarno basin. From those deposits comes also the rich fauna of a warm tropical environment, with type-specimens of Hippopotamus antiquus, Leptobos vallisarni, Leptobos etruscus and Mammuthus (Archidiskodon) meridionalis - just to name a few.

The collection of Miocene fauna of the Maremma region of Tuscany is also worthy of note: among it, the anthropomorphic monkey skeleton Oreopithecus bambolii, collected in the mine of Baccinello (Scansano, Grosseto), stands out. The species O. bambolii, established in 1872 on a jaw from the Florentine collections, has always been the subject of a scientific debate regarding its position in the phylogenetic tree that leads to Homo sapiens.

The collection also includes late Quaternary cave fauna, such as those of the Tecchia di Equi (Fivizzano, Massa-Carrara). More than a hundred years of excavations have returned a large amount of cave bear, associated with lion, leopard and other species of mammals, fish, amphibians and birds.

Significant is also the Fucini collection, a set of samples collected by the Florentine geologist in the early decades of the twentieth century on the Pisan Mountains. It includes an extremely rare three-toed footprint called Grallator toscanus, of the upper-middle Triassic, left by a small bipedal theropod dinosaur.

In addition to the Tuscan finds, the Museum holds remains of other Italian and foreign fossil sites, including - to recall but a few - the woolly rhinoceros of the Pleistocene of Siberia, the Moa birds of New Zealand and the giant sloth of the South American megafauna.

Heads of collections Luca Bellucci | Stefano Dominici | Andrea Savorelli

Read more about the vertebrate collections in essays divided by geological time (by Elisabetta Cioppi, Stefano Dominici, Lorenzo Rook, Paul Mazza — in order of publication), in: Monechi, S. and Rook, L. (eds), 2010, The Museum of Natural History of the University of Florence: The geological and paleontological collections, Firenze University Press (pp. 165-261). English text at the bottom of the pages.
Paleozoic and Mesozoic (aquatic and continental)
Paleogene (marine and continental)
Miocene (marine and continental)
Pliocene and Pleistocene (Pliocene and Plio-Pleistocene continental seas)


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