Palaeozoology I  Collections: Amber, Trilobites, fossil insects/ -spiders and other arthropods

Amber Collection

The amber material ranges in age from mid Cretaceous to Pleistocene/Holocene. The largest part of the collection is composed of samples of Baltic amber, but there is also amber from the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Myanmar, Austria, and copal from Madagascar, Colombia, Kenya and the Caribbean.

The earliest part of the collection is of Baltic amber donated by H. Conwentz in 1884. In the early twentieth century other small collections of Baltic amber were donated by C. von Heyden (1901) and the Frankfurt citizens A. von Gwinner (1908) and K. Dietze (1913).

Following these aquisitions, the next new material was of copal from Puerto Rico obtained in 1978 from B. Graffham. At the end of the twentieth century two new collections were purchased. The first consists of about 370 pieces of Baltic amber from Lithuania collected by amateurs S. Urbonas and J. Veilandas (1998); a second part of this collection is housed in the State Museum of Natural History at Karlsruhe .

In 2000 a small collection of Dominican amber and Tanzanian copal was acquired from K.A. Frickhinger. 

The most important part by far of the Amber Collection was acquired in January 2008 – a part of the Wunderlich Collection. Jörg Wunderlich collects and describes Recent and fossil spiders, and during his career  he has collected important amber material from the Baltic, Dominican Republic, Lebanon, Austria and China and copal from Madagascar, Kenya and Colombia. More than 10.000 pieces including more than 200 holotypes of this magnificent collection could be purchased by Senckenberg with financial support from the Dr Marschner Stiftung. Other parts of the Wunderlich Collection were bought by the Senckenberg Museum für Naturkunde Görlitz and the Geologisch-Paläontologisches Institut und Museum of the University of Hamburg and some retained by the owner.


link to SESAM


other collections

fossil insects

The Fossil Insects collection focuses on insects from the Brazilian Santana Formation (chalk), which was acquired by the former department head Dr. G. Plodowski, as well as insects from the well-known Solnhofen limestone in Bavaria (Jura, Malm), which depends from the museum’s old holdings. Another focus is on Coleoptera holotypes from the Niedersachsen Jura, which were described by Bode in 1953. Well-known localities such as the Randecker Maar in southern Germany, Rott am Siebengebirge, Sieblos / Rhön, the brown coal from Salzhausen, Aix-en-Provence, France, Rio Blanco, USA or Liaoning, China are also represented in the collection. The collection includes both, published and unpublished but mostly undetermined material and also contains a number of fossil insect-structures. A large number of fossil insects are also included in the amber collection.

fossil arachnids

The fossil arachnids collection is a small collection consisting of arachnids from the Brazilian Santana Formation (chalk), which was acquired in 1996 and 2004 by the former Head of Department Dr. G. Plodowski, as well as some Miocene spiders from the Randecker Maar in southern Germany and Rott am Siebengebirge. Only a few specimens have been published so far, most of the pieces are determined (see SESAM ). An extensive selection of fossil spiders can be found in the amber collection.


With about 120,000 specimens of about 3,000 species, the trilobite collection is one of the largest of its kind in the world. The true significance of the trilobite collection can be measured by its proportion of published specimens. About 6,000 trilobites are deposited for about 300 publications. A type catalog of over 1000 types  (Typen-Katalog) can be retrieved.

other Arthropods (without Trilobites)

This collection is much smaller than the trilobite collection (about 1820 specimens) but still has a great scientific significance, as it receives samples of famous deposits: Burgess (Canada), Chengjinag (China) and Alken, Solnhofen in Germany. There are hardly known rarities (e.B. Tariccoiaarrusensis from Sardinia). These rare fossils make it possible to study important events in the history of arthropods, such as the Cambrian explosions or colonization of the mainland. They offer the rare opportunity to study different types of soft tissue preservation. An electronic catalogue of this collection has recently been created, but some changes still need to be made before it can be included in the online sesam database, in the meantime a provisional version of the catalogue can be downloaded here (Excel file).