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Nature's catalogue

Changing values

Virtually all groups of plants and animals, and the natural variations that exist within them, are represented in the Life Science Collections.

Our zoology collections contain all recent known animal groups, including 95 per cent of all known birds. Our insect collection holds half of the one million insect species known today.

Sequence of images showing live animals in the wild

With some of our earliest specimens dating from the late 1400s, the collections here provide insight into the natural world 400 years ago. Many of our specimens are from places that would be unrecognisable to their collectors today.

Nature's catalogue - how large is it?

The collections have been growing since the late 1700s. An average of 160,000 specimens are added every year.

Sequence of images showing scale of collections

We aim to database all of our collections. This will enable people to easily access information about them. It will also tell us exactly how many species we hold.

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Learn more about keeping track Keeping track

How do researchers keep track of the huge number of specimens held in the Museum?

The collections contain in the region of five million botanical specimens, 28 million insect specimens and 27 million specimens from the rest of the animal kingdom.