Home SCIENCE Three Madrid scientists each touch 1.5 million insects Science – elmundo

Three Madrid scientists each touch 1.5 million insects Science – elmundo

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biologist amparo ble He has a set of keys with which he can access a fantasy world. She opens a metal cabinet and some unlikely animals appear: violin beetles from Malaysia, very similar to the instrument. He opens another door a crack and pulls out a tray with a male Hercules beetle, a giant Central American insect the size of a hand, with a monstrous horn. And Blay can stay like this for the rest of his life. he is conservative Collection of 5.5 million insects of the National Museum of Natural Sciences in Madrid. His team – he and two other colleagues – have not yet cataloged 80% of the samples. They touch up to one and a half million insects each. Managers of the world’s 73 largest natural science museums have appealed for help on Thursday in the magazine Science: List of lives inaccessible via the Internet or not known at all.

Madrid museum displays only 0.6% of its more than 11 million pieces, according to biologist Ignacio Doadrio, in command of his collection. is in the gems displayed their famous stuffed Asian elephant, an animal that came alive in 1773 at the port of San Fernando (Cádiz) and walked 800 kilometers through Spain, surprising the locals, until King Carlos III received it in his palace . However, the bulk of the collection of birds and mammals is stored in two warehouses in an industrial estate in Arganda del Rey in downtown Madrid, which suffered a flood in 2002 and was damaged by an explosion in 2017. Hundreds of masterpieces of scientific taxidermy, such as four brown bears stuffed a century ago brothers josé maría and luis benedito,

A showcase with stuffed mammals in the Madrid warehouses of the National Museum of Natural Sciences this Thursday.
A showcase with stuffed mammals in the Madrid warehouses of the National Museum of Natural Sciences this Thursday.alvaro garcía

Those responsible for 73 museums have accounted. Its institutions—led by veterans in Washington, London and New York—guard about 1,150 million pieces with only 4,500 scientists. They touch about 250,000 pieces per researcher. Amparo Blay, two years after retirement, snorts when she mentions that incomparable work. “It’s like I don’t have time”, she jokes in her lab. her husband, the butterfly expert Antonio VivesHe retired two years ago and continues to religiously go every morning to help his wife catalog the millions of insects that have disappeared. A productive day might record a few dozen samples. There are conveyor belts that can speed up the process, but the museum doesn’t have them.

paleontologist Kirk Johnson, dinosaur expert and director of the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, has coordinated the work of 73 institutions in some thirty countries. The team stressed that after three centuries of scientific research, only 2.2 million species of living creatures have been described and named, a tiny fraction of the estimated 15 million known to exist on Earth. The signatories believe their collections are “a unique source of information” for studying the effects of climate change, investigating invasive species, conserving wildlife and even preparing for future pandemics : Their samples hide microbes from other times. However, only 16% of its pieces are digitally cataloged – almost never accompanied by a photograph – and only 0.2% of its biological collections have accessible genetic information. The authors call for more resources and urge the creation of a single digital world archive.

Doudrio, 64, joined the museum as a volunteer when he was 18, shortly after the death of dictator Francisco Franco to organize thousands of boats stocked with fish. “The abandoned collections from 1936 were full of mould, with rats in the corridors. The museum has changed radically since I entered”, the biologist observes. Doudrio, however, has spent decades saying that the institute is dying due to lack of space and infrastructure. The museum has been found since 1910 in the Palace of Arts and Industry in Paseo de la Castellana, Madrid. Since then its headquarters have been shared with the School of Industrial Engineers, which occupies two thirds of the building. Given space constraints, the museum keeps the treasure in two industrial warehouses in Arganda del Rey.

The Madrid institution belongs to the Higher Council for Scientific Research (CSIC), the largest science body in Spain. Over the decades, Doudrio has seen many presidents, kings, mayors and ministers of government pass through the museum, often promising to find solutions to suffering. Biologists recall that the building that is now the Prado Museum was designed in 1785 by order of King Carlos III to display a collection of natural sciences, not paintings or sculptures. It was his grandson Fernando VII who changed the script. “This museum was established with Enlightenment in mind. And we haven’t got enlightened government again. We’re still looking for it”, Doudrio said sarcastically.

Ignacio Doadrio, the biologist responsible for the collection of the National Museum of Natural Sciences, photographed this Thursday.
Ignacio Doadrio, the biologist responsible for the collection of the National Museum of Natural Sciences, photographed this Thursday.alvaro garcía

In 2007, the magazine EL PAÍS Semanal published a report that led to the earthquake. it was titled museum of horrors and it showed humiliating photographs of the interior of the Arganda del Rey’s ships, with the hidden riches of the National Museum thrown on the floor. A wild boar skeleton from 1768 popped out of a toilet, with whale bones piled in the sink. Doudrio, who has been in charge of the archive since 2017, acknowledges that that report worked to improve conditions in the warehouses, but little else. “Now we get 300,000 people a year, but we can’t get more. We have queues. Madrid and the state itself are losing a huge potential tourism potential,” he says.

Director of the Museum, rafael zardoyaAnd Doudrio himself signs the international appeal published in the magazine Science, Your organization issued a statement this Thursday warning that “collection information is not very accessible and is at risk”, referring to the group of 73 museums. The note laments the “lack of investment” and recalls the fires that destroyed India’s National Museum of Natural History in 2016 and Brazil’s National Museum in 2018.

On May 4, 2017, an explosion at a nearby hazardous waste industrial plant in Arganda del Rey blew out several windows of one of the warehouses guarding a collection that does not fit the Madrid museum, according to the former director Was. Newspaper. , Santiago Merino. The glass that fell inside shattered the empty display case, but the scientific collection was not harmed. It was just a scare, but it could have been a catastrophe. A fire at Brazil’s National Museum in Rio de Janeiro destroyed 85% of its 20 million pieces. Doudrio points to some stuffed venomous snakes hanging in a laboratory at the Madrid Institute: “They were from the Rio de Janeiro museum. They were donated to us before the fire.”

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