Palynothèque collection

The Palynothèque is in theory an extension of the Histothèque, but developed independently, and more recently. It contains spore (Fern) and pollen (Phanerogam) slides.


Slides from the Palynothèque were mainly made following the technique developed by the Swedish palynologist Gunnar Erdtman in 1952.

Material (fresh, fixed or sampled from herbarium specimens) is processed using aggressive chemical agents (acetylosis), so that only the outer coating (exine) of the spore or pollen grain is preserved. The shape is preserved, the coating is transparent and ornamentations (striations, thorns, etc.) are thoroughly cleaned. The objects, mounted in gelatin and glycerine, can be studied through a microscope, usually at high magnification (x 1,000). This requires the use of thinner, more fragile glass slides than for anatomy. Their appearance is very similar to that of fossils, which makes comparisons much easier, particularly in geological research.

Slides are perfectly standardised and can be produced at a large-scale, which helps with exchanges and loans. The Palynothèque currently includes around 40,000 slides, as well as photographic collections (palynological atlases, details through scanning or transmission electron microscope), and reports on certain slide series, some being unpublished. The slides in the general series, which are frequently borrowed and consulted, are stored by chronological order of creation.


The Palynothèque gathers two collections, both created at the Muséum but with different goals. The oldest dates back to 1959 (but the oldest slides date back to 1955) and was founded by Madeleine Van Campo, the pioneer of modern palynology in France, and continued to expand until 1996, under the leadership of M.-T. Cerceau-Larrival (CNRS).

It served the study of pollen morphology, the study of the evolution of (mostly) temperate Angiosperm groups (Saxifragales, Apiaceae), and certain applications for agronomy (pollen banks), apiculture and allergology. The other collection was created by A. Le Thomas (EPHE) in 1970 and aimed at the study of tropical groups (taxonomy and phylogeny). It is therefore directly linked to the herbaria, particularly to type specimens.


The Palynothèque provides abundant material for comparison and identification of current or fossil pollen at a worldwide scale, as well as for the theoretical study of pollen morphology and evolution. Interest in the collection has been rekindled in the last few years by research into the development of pollen grains in relation to their evolution (known as "evo-devo").


Thierry Deroin
thierrry.deroin [@]

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