Managing, conserving and increasing specimen collections is the core business of the Muséum national d'Histoire naturelle. The marine fauna and flora collections are inseparable from the research, teaching, expertise and dissemination activities of the station.
The historic faunistic collections kept at the Concarneau Marine Station began around 1870 shortly after the creation of the station.
They were constituted by a succession of researchers such as Charles Robin (1821-1885), Georges Pouchet (1833-1894), Alfred Giard (1846-1908), Laurent Chabry (1855-1893), Jules Bonnier (1859-1908), Fabre-Domergue (1861-1940), René Legendre (1880-1954) and Marie-Henriette Du-Buit (1935-2015). These several hundred collections of the local marine fauna, mainly composed of fish and marine invertebrates, supported these researchers' work. Today, they play their full role as benchmarks for putting biodiversity monitoring into perspective in the context of environmental changes. These historical collections, currently not available, are included in a restoration, cataloguing and valorisation plan.
In order to reconnect with the station’s tradition, a reference collection of marine organisms from the Atlantic coast is being formed to meet not only training needs, but also those of taxonomists. For example, a collection of teleost fishes from the Bay of Biscay is in the process of being formed. This collection is backed by a collection of fish larvae from all over the world, which is also managed at the station.
It is accessible and available on site or through loans (colhelper.mnhn.fr). This collection serves as a support for a training in larval identification provided at the station. A collection of meiofauna organisms (Annelids, Gastrotriches, Kinorhynchs, Loricifera, Nematodes, Platyhelminthes, Rotifers, Tardigrades) from global sediments is also accessible and available (colhelper.mnhn.fr). This collection brings together nearly 800 different species (and as many types) on slides, corresponding to more than 3,000 microscopic preparations. This collection includes eight different branches. At the same time, researchers at the station have for many years been supplying so-called "research" collections; they concern macroalgae as well as pelagic (adult and larval) and benthic (mainly fixed invertebrate) fauna.
A historical collection: The Crouan brothers’ herbarium
The brothers Hippolyte Marie Crouan (1798-1871) and Pierre-Louis Crouan (1802-1871), both pharmacists in Brest, contributed to the knowledge of Finistère plants in the first half of the 19th century. They created several collections (plants, algae, lichens, mushrooms, shells) that they abundantly annotated and illustrated. Their interest in cryptogams and in particular macroalgae was notorious. They created an algae herbarium that includes some 2,000 red algae, 1,000 brown algae and 1,000 green algae.
This herbarium was a cornerstone of the Crouan brothers' studies and they disseminated the results in various forms including an exsiccata (a herbarium reproduced in numerous copies for wide distribution) entitled Algues marines du Finistère (1852) and a book La Florule du Finistère was published in 1867. To increase its visibility and to be accessible to the greatest number, this algae collection is being scanned. It can, under certain conditions, be consulted by making a request on colhelper.mnhn.fr.
Ichtyotaxidermie: a rare know-how
A large collection of current teleost and chondrichthyan fish has been created since the 1990s. To date, it includes nearly 4,000 batches of about a thousand species of the North Atlantic and covers almost all regional ichthyological diversity. More than 50 specimens, including several sharks and large rays, were stuffed in the station by the only French ichthyoid taxidermist. This rare skill is an asset for the station, especially for the preservation of specimens too large to be kept in liquid. The ichthyological collections are used regularly as a support for training actors in the maritime field and will be integrated in the new tour circuit in the Marinarium in order to be exposed in the long term for the pleasure of the visitors.
The living collections exhibited in the Marinarium's aquariums represent five species of chondrichthyan fish, more than 50 species of teleost fish and more than 70 species of other marine organisms; all these species are local and live in our waters.
Photo : Bernard Bourlès © MNHN - Agnès Iaztoura