Spirit collection

2 148 fluid-preserved specimens. It was traditionally used as a raw material to replenish collections of taxidermied animals and other exhibits. The collection represents all classes of vertebrates and several systematic groups of mollusks, sponges, crustaceans, worms, and insects. It was formed according to the main idea of the museum – to highlight the main problems of evolution.

A significant number of the specimens were purchased by Alexander Kohts from foreign trading companies, such as Schluter (Germany), Fritsch (Austria-Hungary), Scheer (Russia). In 1918, Professor Yury Belogolovy passed to Kohts a collection of African Polypterus and some other fish, which he collected during the expedition to the Congo and the Niger River basin, organized by the Moscow Society of Naturalists in 1914. Some species were donated by Sc.D. Maria Sadovnikova-Koltsova.


Among the vertebrate specimens the most numerous are the amphibians, reptiles, and fish. The specimens allow us to demonstrate the diversity of life forms in the kingdom Animalia, including those interesting in terms of their external morphology, such as:

  • salamanders and frogs (the olm, some species of newts, the salamander, the Mole salamander, the common midwife toad, the common Suriname toad, tree frogs)

  • reptiles (the thorny devil, some species of chameleons, various species of snakes)

  • a variety of fish (Elasmobranchii, Lungfish, Polypteriformes).


The collection contains almost all systematic groups of invertebrates, including:

  • Siboglinidae

  • Comb jellies (Ctenophora)

  • Cnidaria

  • Sponges

  • Echinoderm

  • Tunicate

  • Mollusca

  • various worms (including parasitic ones)

  • most arachnid and insect orders. 

A number of the collection specimens allow to demonstrate the basic patterns of individual development in insects (Hymenopterans, Diptera or flies). There are also examples of rare species of tropical Myriapoda and Arachnida.

Worth to be noted is a decent collection of various species of African fish collected in Ethiopia between 1986 and 1995, as well as botanical specimens, various species of sponges, echinoderms, corals, fish, amphibians, and reptiles collected in Brazil, Australia, the islands of New Guinea, New Caledonia, Fiji, New Hebrides, Lord Howe Island, as well as the atolls Funafuti and Marakei between 1971 and 1983. Valuable material on crustaceans (various types of crabs) in recent years was brought from expeditions to Thailand and Malaysia (the Andaman Sea) by Darwin museum employee Alexander Alyakrinsky.


Of great scientific interest is the collection of bird embryos, comprising 218 specimens, donated to the Museum. This collection of 22 species of different families demonstrates species-specific features of embryogenesis.

The collection of spirit brains of mammals deserves special attention. It contains specimens of:

  • Marsupials

  • Pilosa

  • Eulipotyphla

  • Rodents

  • Lagomorphs

  • Carnivores

  • Pinnipeds

  • Cetaceans

  • Proboscidea

  • Tylopoda

  • even-toed ungulates and odd-toed ungulates.

This collection, obtained from the Moscow Zoo, comprises 173 specimens.

Of particular interest are the fluid-preserved newborns and young mammals of almost all the main orders starting from marsupials and insectivores to pinnipeds and primates. Some samples demonstrate examples of common individual development disorders, such as abnormally developed calves.


Today, the collection is completed by occasional collections by museum employees, as well as through donations of raw materials from the Terrarium Center and the Moscow Zoo.

Spirit collection

Chameleon (Chamaelio sp.) on the left and the thorny devil (Molochus harrydius Gray) on the right.

Spirit collection2

The thornback ray (Raja clavata) and the catshark (Sciliorhinus beshardi).