The Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle’s micropalaeontology collection contains several million of microscopic fossils (microfossils).
To date, over 50,000 preparations have been listed, and around 6,000 reference specimens (types as well as individuals figuring in various publications) have been listed and computerised.
These are mainly tests (micro-shells) or skeletons of unicellular microorganisms (foraminifera, radiolarians, coccolithophorids, diatoms, dinoflagellates, chitinozoans, testate amoebae, etc.), from marine sediments and rocks from around the world, dating from the Paleozoic to the present day. The morphologies of these tests and skeletons, which may be organic or made of various minerals (calcium carbonate, silica), are often complex and magnificent. Their incredible diversity, abundance and ubiquity make them essential markers for relative dating and reconstructions of the marine ecosystems and climates of the past.
The main body of the collection is made up of the foraminifera’s collection, which is one of the most important in the world since it contains the prestigious collection of Alcide d’Orbigny, the founder of micropalaeontology. It was regularly enriched by donations from micropalaeontologists (such as Terquem, d’Archiac, Berthelin, Deshayes, Douvillé, Schlumberger, Marie, Le Calvez, de Klasz, Sigal, Lys, etc.).
The micropalaeontology collection also includes the protistology and palaeoprotistology collection (dinoflagellates, radiolarians, coccolithophorids, chitinozoans, diatoms) assembled by G. Deflandre, who was also a pioneer in this field.
The collection also contains some microscopic fossilized remains of metazoans (ostracods, scolecodonts, echinoderms, holothurians, ophiuroids, etc.).
Some of these collections were donated as a whole, either by the specialists themselves at the end of their working life, or by their families after their death. Alongside this, since the end of the 1960s, the collections have regularly been supplied with types and figured specimens by researchers, who deposit them as their works are published.
Specialists can visit and study the collections, which comprise microscope slides containing isolated specimens or species assemblages, thin sections, specimens mounted under microscope cover glasses and glass slides, or mounted on SEM Pin stubs, which can be used for scanning electron microscope observations or chemical analyses. Many rock samples and sediments from which the type specimens came, as well as the archives (original drawings, field notes, etc.) complete this collection.