Employees of the Department of Vertebrate Zoology conduct taxonomic and morphometric research on snakes, birds and mammals, both contemporary and fossil species from the Late Oligocene to Holocene. Fossil remains of animals are studied from Miocene brown coal deposits in Bełchatów, from Pliocene deposits in Ręblice Królewskie, and from numerous caves in the Kraków-Częstochowa Upland.
Herpetological studies carried out in recent years have concentrated mainly on the fossil remains of snakes from various countries of the Western Palearctic, mostly from Oligocene and Miocene sites. Our employees have examined bird remains of extinct species from the Oligocene (about 30 mln years ago) up to recent species, the bones of which have been preserved in archaeological sites.
We also study the recent bat fauna and the comparative osteology of contemporary bird species. The results have been applied in identification keys determining bird species (mostly domesticated) based on bones.
Our employees conduct research on zooarchaeology and taphonomy of remains of birds and mammals from many Polish archaeological sites including Obłazowa, Ciemna, Mamutowa, and Nietoperzowa cave, and open sites such as Kraków Spadzista, Zwoleń, and Wilczyce. In collaboration with scientists abroad, our researchers investigate archaeological sites in other European countries including Pavlov I, Dolni Vestonice II (Czech Republic), Klisoura cave (Greece), Bacho Kiro cave (Bulgaria). Our studies encompass bone remains not only from Paleolithic sites, but also from younger historical periods, e.g. Neolithic site Sarakenos (Greece), Bronze Age Asva (Estonia) and animal assemblages from the Main Square and Szczepański Square Kraków, dated to the Middle Ages.
The collections contain remains of contemporary reptiles, birds and mammals. An important part of the osteological collection consists of teeth and bones of Pleistocene animals. These include one of the largest assortments of mammoth Mammuthus primigenius specimens, numbering several thousand teeth and bones. We also maintain numerous cave bear Ursus spelaeus and reindeer Rangifer tarandus remains. A large amount of zoological material originates from places that are difficult to access such as Cuba, Mexico, Algeria, and Syria. This part of the collection contains unique bat and rodent specimens, not found in other museums in Poland or Europe. The bat collection holds many type specimens from mainly fossil species, making it one of the most important collections of this sort in the world.
We also maintain a large collection of over 5500 specimens (over 1000 taxa) of recent bird species. Nearly all European species are represented (over 500 taxa), as well as other species from all continents (over 500 additional taxa). We also house a collection of bird eggs that includes 188 eggs from all birds nesting on Antarctica and a historical collection of 2309 eggs collected in the XIX century by Wodzicki.