Museum für Naturkunde, Berlin

After getting off the plane in Berlin and checking into the hotel, the first place Robert and I made a beeline to was the Museum für Naturkunde.  As I mentioned in the previous post on the archaeopteryx, this museum has long been a pilgrimage destination and one that while I am grateful to have made it to.  However, realizing that way more time could have been spent there is most frustrating.  There is so much to see…


For instance, walking through the front door, it starts with the world’s largest mounted skeleton, found in Africa and brought to Berlin, a brachiosaurus that is the most amazingly large dinosaur skeleton I’ve ever seen.  I still find it like science fiction that these animals actually walked the Earth some 150 million years ago.  Its hard to believe, but makes one desperately wish for the opportunity to see and hear one in the flesh.


Initially I thought this Kentrosaurus was a juvenile stegosaurus, but then we saw that the plates became spikes towards the tail side.  Also, check out those spikes on the shoulders!  It was thought that some of the material for this skeleton was destroyed in WWII like so many historical artifacts in Berlin towards the end of WWII and any other major city that experiences time of war and civil unrest.  For example, the last remaining original Fokker Dr.1 was destroyed after the Zeughaus was damaged in a bombing raid.


There are two allosaurus skeletons at the museum, this small one and a larger one to the right.  I am always curious as to various aspects of biology in these animals, particularly in their vision.  These animals likely had pretty good vision from what I understand of studies of skulls and the spaces for the optic lobes.  Scott Rogers here at the UofU is apparently quite an expert in the study of fossil neuroanatomy…  Perhaps I’ll have to start a conversation with him.


The dysalotosaurus skeleton was named in 1919 by Hans Virchow, the son of the famous Rudolf Virchow.  What this photo does not show unfortunately is the feet of this small iguanodon.  This is the only example of this skeleton I’ve ever seen.


The Glyptodon…  What can I say?  When I was a kid, there was a book that had all these pictures of dinosaurs and I absolutely, totally remember the glyptodon.  So, when we walked through the door and saw this fossil, I could not believe it.  Robert and I looked at each other and exclaimed “Glyptodon!”.  We are such geeks…


Boxes and shipping crates are universally interesting… What is in them?  A friend of mine (you know who you are) did an internship at the Smithsonian years ago where they sent him to the basement and warehouses to document what was there (they don’t actually know everything that they have).  Every couple of nights, he’d send me emails on things that he was finding as he dug through and annotated the archives and it was amazing.  Crates that had not been opened for over 100 years that held untold treasures of history… But I digress.


The fossils on exhibit are amazing with vertebrates and invertebrates of all shapes and sizes.  The textures in these pentacrinitie crinoids were stunning.  Getting some time with these specimens and a macro lens would have been so enjoyable.


These examples of Bradysaurus baini were remarkable enough until we noticed the opening in the skull for the parietal eye.  Seeing that made them truly interesting specimens from a vision perspective… or at least a circadian biology perspective.


This Mastodonsaurus giganteus skull also had a nicely positioned parietal eye.  While modern alligators have a pineal gland, they have lost the pineal eye that is still present in some lizard species and the tuatara.


This ichthyosaur specimen was also the first one I’ve ever seen in person.  Again, I’ve seen them in books, but they never quite prepare you for how beautiful and complex these skeletons are.  Supposedly there is a complete specimen that is assembled in Stuttgart.  Perhaps there will be a reason to go back to Stuttgart other than the Porsche factory.


The plateosaurus engelhardti was also a new one for me with amazingly different skull structure than some of the sauropods.


This Rhamphorhynchus muensteri specimen was amazingly tiny and delicate and the stiff tail was something new for me in the pterosaur category.


I’ve seen pictures of this particular specimen of Lepidotes maximus in books.  This… Very…  Fossil.


Of course the standard preparations are present in this museum of a variety of creatures from around the world.  These seem to be scattered throughout, but on the way from this exhibit, we passed into possibly the coolest museum exhibit I’ve ever seen…


This room was amazing.  It was a room within a room, a glass encased exhibit of fixed specimens from around the globe of every kind of fish and sea dwelling creature alive.  It was an amazing exhibit all backlit by strong lights to transilluminate the specimens behind glass.


They even had a Lophiiformes or angler fish on display!  I’d never seen one in real life.  I looked for the parasitic male, but could not see it in this specimen.  It may be that it only occurs in the Cryptopsaras couesii, but I do not know.


Also on display was an impressive variety of elephant skeletons and skulls with a phenomenal exhibit on elephant dentition and how the teeth of elephants grow and are replaced as the elephant matures.


I was also amazed at the sponge like appearance of the elephant skull which is full of holes to lighten the skull.


A variety of other specimens throughout evolution are on display including this menacing looking creature whose name I unfortunately did not get.


There are also a number of most impressive models of insects created by the famous Alfred Keller who made some of the most impressive examples of insects and posed them in behavior.  I know at least one entomologist that might be interested in a pilgrimage to see these exhibits.


Perhaps some day I’ll have a chance to return, but for now, I’ll leave you with a shot of Robert underneath the brachiosaurus skeleton to give an appreciation for how big this thing was.

15 Replies to “Museum für Naturkunde, Berlin”

  1. Amazing images! I spent a week behind-the-scenes last year for work experience and loved it. It’s easily one of my favourite NH museums and I can’t wait to go back.

    The fluid collection viewing area is immense. I blogged about my time in the collections if that’s of interest:

    Thanks for a great post : )


    1. Thanks man. I am still working with this 8-15mm fisheye zoom. Its got some interesting applications, but its also trickier to use than I expected.

    1. Juliane,

      Many thanks for the comment. I look forward one of these days to getting back to your wonderful museum to spend some more time. I felt so rushed this trip, it would have been easy to spend an entire day or more there. If I really had some more convenient time, it would have been fun to optimize exposures and do some interesting lighting during off-hours…

  2. Thank you for this wonderful post. A few years ago I visited the Galerie de paléontologie et d’anatomie comparée in Paris and had an amazing time and took some great photos so I have added Museum für Naturkunde to the (top of the) list of things to do when in Berlin.

    1. Oh! The Galerie paléontologie et d’anatomie comparée is on my list of places to see. Last time I was in Paris, I walked right past it and did not know what I missed. Next time for sure.

  3. hey, nice pics you’ve got from the MfN! i know the post is a bit old, but i thought i could let you know that your dysalotosaurus photo is one of the best i found, and that i’m using it for the presentation of my phd defence as i published a work on dysalotosaurus braincase and inner ear. the pic is referenced. let me know if you have something against it =]

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