Back to top

Two unique collections supporting research are managed by the MfN: the Ehrenberg Collection, and the modern Radiolarian Collections, which are part of the Micropaleontologic Reference Center collection network.


The Ehrenberg Collection is the world's oldest large collection of protists. It includes both preserved living and fossil material, and covers a wide range of protist phyla. The focus however is on diatoms and radiolarians. Diatoms are among the most important groups of phytoplankton. Modern diatoms are studied in fresh water and marine environments, and as fossils in deep-sea sediments.  Radiolarians are exclusively marine zooplankton and mostly studied in fossil form.  The Ehrenberg collection contains thousands of type specimens for species, including species for many of the most common diatom genera. It is used to clarify and stabilize the meanings of species names used in modern research. We have long-term colloborations with external groups to jointly re-illustrate and document these materials.

The Modern Radiolarian Collections contain thousands of preparations from around the world and are almost entirely drawn from deep-sea sediment sources, particularly sections recovered by the deep-sea drilling projects (DSDP, ODP and IODP).  Most of the materials are part of the global Micropaleontologic Reference Center collections network, which is managed by the MfN. The MRC network includes as well thousands of samples of diatoms, foraminifera and calcareous nannofossils (e.g. coccolithophores). Eight identical duplicate sets are hosted by major museums and oceanographic research centers around the world. Although used in current research (see [overview page] for a summary), the main purpose of the collections is to preserve, in the very long term, the fossil record recovered by the deep-sea drilling programs, even long after these programs come to an end and the core materials have been used up for other research purposes. The MRC project, begun decades ago, has largely been a voluntary cooperative effort by micropaleontologists, with modest support by the drilling programs.


  • Dr. Regine Jahn
  • Wolf-Henning Kusber

Botanical Garden and Botanical Museum, Free Universiy, Berlin-Dahlem


  • Lazarus, D.B., and Jahn, R., 1998, Using the Ehrenberg Collection: Diatom Research, v. 13, p. 273–291.
  • Lazarus, D.B., 1998, The Ehrenberg Collection and its curation, in Williams, D.M., and Huxley, R., ed., Christian Gottfried Ehrenburg [sic] (1795-1876): The man and his legacy: The Linnean Society, p. 31–48.
  • Lazarus, D., 2006, The Micropaleontological Reference Centers network: Scientific Drilling, v. 3, p. 46–49.
  • Tanimura, Y., and Aita, Y., 2009, Joint Haeckel and Ehrenberg Project: Reexamination of the Haeckel and Ehrenberg Microfossil Collections as a Historical and Scientific Legacy: National Museum of Nature and Science Monographs, v. 40, p. 106 pp, ca 40 pp. Appendices, 254 full page plates (Tokyo). (several papers co-authored with Lazarus; full documentation of Ehrenberg Collection radiolarians in ca 200 plates).