Protozoa collection

Foraminiferan Stannophyllum zonarium

The foraminiferan (Xenophyophorea) Stannophyllum zonarium


Laura Jane Cotton

Collection manager

Laura Pavesi

About the collection

The taxonomic coverage is largely restricted to Foraminifera, other groups being only insignificantly represented. The collection comprises samples from many parts of the world, both shallow water and the deep sea. Regional efforts have resulted in selected expedition materials or taxonomic groups having been worked up. Some samples are dried, some are in alcohol.

About 70 publications have fully or in part been based on specimens from the collection.

Protozoa collection in numbers

For the time being no exact figures can be given. The number of samples and slides count several thousands.

Particular strengths

  • The deep-sea samples of the “Galathea” Expedition 1950-52
  • The family Schizamminidae
  • Xenophyophora (Foraminifera ‘Monothalamids’, status unclear)
  • North Atlantic large agglutinated Foraminifera

Important subcollections

Significant samples were brought home by a number of Danish expeditions. Large agglutinated foraminifers from deep water were procured during the “Ingolf” expedition 1895-96 in the northern Atlantic. A diversified foraminifer collection was taken by the “Atlantide” expedition 1945-46 off West Africa. A major collection of xenophyophores was found at abyssal depths in the Indian and Pacific Oceans during the “Galathea” expedition around the World 1950-52.


The building up of the collection has been fortuitous, as the museum staff never comprised a specialist on the group taking part in relevant expeditions.

The ichthyologist Georg Winther (1844-1879) worked at the Zoological Museum 1866-1874. He had wide interests and published the first survey of foraminifers from Danish waters (1874). The paleontologist and foraminiferologist Aksel Nørvang (1914-1968) was on the staff 1958-1968. His work on the Foraminifera collection, based on his own sampling efforts in shallow water as well as on the “Atlantide” and “Galathea” expeditions’ numerous samples, took a stop with his sudden death in 1968.

Thereafter, the major part of the collection was transferred to the Paleontological Institute of the University of Copenhagen where it was curated and worked on by Hans Jørgen Hansen (1939-2021) until his retirement in 2009. Ole S. Tendal (1942 - today) from 1987 curated among other groups the Protozoa until retirement 2012. He organized the xenophyophore part of the collection, mainly on the basis of comprehensive samples from the “Galathea” expedition that had been overlooked, initially being classified as sponges, later as incertae sedis material.

For the time being the major part of the foraminifer collection is inaccessible. In principle, the whole collection should have been returned to the Zoological Museum after the fusion of several institutes and museums into the Natural History Museum of Denmark in 2004. However, space limitations in connection with building renovation and a later flooding of cellar magazines at the Geological Museum made it necessary to transfer parts of the collections into a distant store building, among them the large foraminifer slide collection, while sediment samples and sorting rests, packed in large boxes, were placed in the store rooms of the Zoological Museum.