Mr Roberto Portela Miguez

Mr Roberto Portela Miguez

Curator, Mammals

Department: Life Sciences
Division: LS Vertebrates Division
Contact: email


Curation, History of Collections, Mammal collections, Marsupials, Monotremes, Taxidermy, Wet Curation


As curator of Mammals, my responsibilities involve the general care, curation, ditigising and preservation of the dry and spirit collections of the Mammal Section. I am also heavily involved with the ongoing reorganisation of the collections. I also assist with the answering of enquires, dealing with loan requests and the supervision of visitors (scientific, commercial and the general public) in relation to the group under my care. My current projects are: 1. Museum genomics Project: Chaeropus ecaudatus New Generation Sequencing The pig-footed bandicoot, was a small marsupial of the arid and semi-arid plains of Australia. The last specimen of this poorly known species was taken in 1901, and is now considered to be extinct. The project aims to determine if new generation sequencing is able to obtain DNA from the only two specimens in the Museum collections s for which only a few specimens exist in the museum collections worldwide. This project is due to start in April 2014 and might broaden its scope if molecular results allow for the exploration of further phylogenetic and taxonomic questions. This project has the collaboration and research support of Prof Ian Barnes, and Dr Bruno Simoes. 2. Digitising The Marsupial Type Collections with IMu Rapid Data Entry Tools In line with the NHM Digital Collection Programme aims to collate, organize and make available the world’s most important natural history collection as a digital resource, the digitising of the Marsupial Type collection has been identified as a candidate for a pilot project that will test new rapid entry tools, which could make this area of the collection available online within a short period of time. The Marsupial type collection of the Natural History Museum is unrivalled and comparatively richer than any other institution elsewhere. It contains circa 600 type specimens largely due to the accessions of Australian Mammals formed by Mr John Gould but also about 70% of South American species, most described by Oldfield Thomas. This project was chosen in 2014 as a pilot group for developing new techniques to digitize collections and started in April/May 2014. An app will be developed with the aim to facilitate the upload of data to the Content Management System in a more efficient and reliable fashion. 3. Consolidation of Monotreme and Marsupial collections. For historical reasons elements of certain Mammal taxonomic groups have been stored in separate locations. This is the case for material from groups such as Monotremes and Marsupials. In the interest of keeping the collections organised taxonomically, improving their storage and access, collections will be consolidated and digitised in the process. 4. Curation and Digitisation of Ungulate types Ungulates is a group that still stirs considerable taxonomic debate as illustrated by Zachos et al(2012) and Gippoloto and Groves(2013). The Natural History Museum holds circa 600 type specimens for this group which according to Wilson and Reeder(2005) has an estimated 261 species. Every year, changes to this "standard" list of ungulates are proposed as new physical and genetic evidence becomes available: renaming subspecies as distinct species, separating (or uniting) genera, or naming species new to science. Most taxonomic changes are rather restricted in scale (usually reorganizing a species or genus). Rarely, however, entire orders are reviewed and revised: the entire scope of hoofed mammals receives such a treatment in Ungulate Taxonomy (Groves and Grubb, 2011).This recent work has had major implications on the number of species as Groves and Grubb recognize over 450 distinct ungulates. In light of this, re- curating and making this collection as digitally accessible as possible will be beneficial not only for the management of this collection but also to support international on-going research on this group. 5. Archaeozoological collections The archaeozoology collections for vertebrates are split between two sites. Unifying these will facilitate the management of collections of similar nature and composition, enhance the storage of the specimens, as well as facilitate the work of researchers. The first stage of this project involves curating the Jiita II and Jericho Collections and the relocation of these two collections together with the Star Carr and Seamer Carr to another building. The Jericho site is a faunal collection that enables researchers to examine changes in the diversity, richness, morphology and biometry of animals in a single geographic locality and especially to test and formulate criteria concerning the domestication of dogs and the four founder species - sheep, goat, cattle and pigs. The Jiita II site offer an important window into the local fauna of the last glacial, including species now extinct in the region such as wild Persian goat (Capra aegagrus) and the Persian fallow deer (Dama dama mesopotamica). Star Carr and Seamer Carr are Mesolithic archaeological sites in North Yorkshire, England. They are generally regarded as the most important and informative Mesolithic sites in Great Britain.



BA, University of Vigo, Spain, 1995 - 2001

Employment history


Curator, Mammal Section, Natural History Museum, Life Sciences, United Kingdom, 2008 - ongoing

Curatorial, Mollusca and Lower Invertebrates Sections, Natural History Museum, Zoology Department, United Kingdom, 2006 - 2007

Curatorial Assistant, Reptiles, Fish and Amphibians Division, Natural History Museum, Zoology Department, United Kingdom, 2005 - 2006


Darwin Centre Guide, Natural History Museum, Learning, 2004 - 2005


Helgen KM, PORTELA-MIGUEZ R, Kohen JL, Helgen LE (2012) Twentieth century occurrence of the Long-Beaked Echidna Zaglossus bruijnii in the Kimberley region of Australia. Zookeys, 255 : 103 - 132. doi: 10.3897/zookeys.255.3774

Portela Miguez R (2006) The Spirit of the Museum. Porcupine Marine Natural History Society Newsletter, (20): 25 - 28.

Highlighted publications

Helgen KM, PORTELA-MIGUEZ R, Kohen JL, Helgen LE (2012) Twentieth century occurrence of the Long-Beaked Echidna Zaglossus bruijnii in the Kimberley region of Australia. Zookeys, 255 : 103 - 132. doi: 10.3897/zookeys.255.3774