The Polyneoptera collection contains 5 sub-collections: Orthoptera, Dictyoptera, Dermaptera, Phasmids and “Small Orders” (Embioptera, Psocoptera, Plecoptera, Zoraptera, Ephemeroptera and Trichoptera). It has been built up without interruption since the early 19th century, thanks to the work of many French and foreign entomologists.
The collection contains around 950,000 specimens, mainly dry preserved, including around 27,000 identified types. For most groups of Orthoptera and Dictyoptera, these collections contain the most representative samples of biodiversity in the world, especially in areas where work has continued over long periods of time (neotropical, African, Malagasy and New Caledonian regions).
For several decades, the Polyneoptera collection has been supporting and benefiting from the Muséum’s research into Orthoptera Caelifera and Ensifera, and Dictyoptera. Targeted sampling in tropical natural environments provides the collections with specimens, which are determined later, and original data on the biological characteristics of the species. Generalised inventories are also leading to a rapid expansion of the Polyneoptera collections for Biodiversity hotspots (French Guiana, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea, Comoros, India, Indonesia, etc.)
The data collected in the natural environment, studied in a phylogenetic context, are used in analyses of the evolution of species’ biological attributes (habitats, methods of communication, invasive tendencies, diets, ranges, social relations) on one hand, and studies of community structures on the other, monitoring community dynamics in the context of environmental issues (forest regeneration and fragmentation). All model clades are the subject of taxonomic and phylogenetic systematics work, as the phylogenies are reconstructed based on morphological, molecular and behavioural traits. Given that these Insect groups were among some of the least well-known despite their average size (some tens of thousands of species), these studies immediately led to taxonomic descriptions and the designation of numerous types.
This research and the collections derived from it promote the training of doctoral students as well as the development of national and international collaborations. The expansion of the collection varies depending on the orders and regions surveyed, but can be estimated at 1,000 to 2,000 specimens per year on average. The recent development of research into the evolution of acoustic communication in Ensifera is also contributing to the enrichment of the Muséum’s Sonothèque (Sound Library).
The collection is being computerised gradually alongside the research work undertaken by the heads of collections (types, specimens documented for biological data), and donations from collaborators external to the Muséum, who are contributing to the study and enrichment of the Polyneoptera collections.