National Museum of Natural Sciences

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    General Description

    • Mineralogy, geochemistry and meteorites: Mineral studies of environmental origin, biogenic and historical specimens of meteorites and minerals studied in the MNCN analytical facilities, such as ESEM-EDS-WDS-BS-CL; CLSM; Raman-PL, XRD, XRF, DTA-TG , PSD, AA, MO, MS, G, IR, CT-Scan. Likewise, new analytical routines and patterns are developed to study Raman spectra, Photoluminescence and Cathodoluminescence that allow the mineralogical characterization of geogenic materials. We study speciation and geochemical transformations of metals in natural and antropogenic environments. We focus on the study of sorption reactions and the formation of new minerals that result in the natural or assisted attenuation of contaminant in soils and sediments. For this purpose we use models to describe sorption and transport of toxic elements, chemical extraction methods and synchrotron-based X-ray absorption spectroscopy methods to study the molecular-scale retention phenomena and speciation of metals and metalloids in the environment.
    • Geoenvironmental records of Global Change and Georisks: The group’s research focuses on Earth surface changes and the underlying geological processes with the aim of anticipating and adapting to the resulting socio-economic impacts. The impacts of climate variability, geological processes, and the anthropic effects on the territory (e.g. Sea level, magnitude and frequency of floods, erosion and river fluvial motion of sediments, carbon cycle, natural and induced seismicity) are studied at different spatial (local, regional, continental, global) and temporal (daily, yearly, secular, millennial) scales. Studies on the genesis, availability, and distribution of natural resources are as well carried out. This knowledge is applied in the prevention and mitigation of natural risks, especially in what relates to earthquake risk reduction and the occurrence of extreme events and expected impacts
    • Paleoanthropology: The aim of the paleoanthropology group is the analysis of human evolution and development, in their different levels of organization, based on the analysis of fossil remains. The main objectives are specially focused on the morphological evolution, histological organization of hard tissues and behavioural evolution. As remarkable facilities, the group has a fully functional 3D Morphometrics Lab and Experimental Taphonomy Lab.
    • Paleobiology of Cenozoic Vertebrates: The research of the group focuses on the study of the Paleontological Record of continental vertebrates, with special emphasis on the description of the patterns and the analysis of the processes involved in the evolution of mammals and Cenozoic paleoenvironments, integrating different methodological approaches and scientific disciplines. This research is characterized by its multidisciplinary approach and the development of new techniques and methodologies applied to the study of fossils and past environments. In addition, the group has a commitment with the Paleontological Heritage developing an intense activity in this field, helping to establish the scientific basis for the concept of Paleontological Heritage and cooperates with the different Autonomous Communities on the recovery of paleontological remains and on aspects related with its conservation.
    • Ecology of freshwater fish populations and communities: Our research focuses on elucidating the factors and mechanisms underlying the life histories and dynamics of populations and communities of freshwater fishes across scales of space and time essentially in streams and rivers . Futher, attempts to highlight the way in which the populations are regulated in both densities and production dynamics in contrasting habitats.
    • Reproductive Ecology and Biology Group: Our group was established in January 2002. We are interested in the origin and conservation of biological diversity. We study the evolution of reproductive strategies and, in particular, the role of post-copulatory sexual selection (sperm competition and cryptic female choice) on male reproductive success. We are interested in how sperm competition has favoured adaptations from the organismal to the molecular level, focusing on mammals and, in particular, on various rodent lineages. Work on biodiversity conservation concentrates on two areas: the effects of inbreeding upon male reproduction in threatened species and development of reproductive biotechnologies for endangered species to facilitate the exchange of genes between populations, both captive and natural.
    • Ecology and conservation of birds: Our research fields are behavioural ecology and conservation biology, and our main current interests are the behavioural and ecological adaptations of strong sexual selection, the evolution of sex ratio, and sexual segregation in species with extreme sexual size dimorphism. We are also interested in knowing the effects of human-induced landscape changes on the behaviour and population dynamics of wild species. Recently, we have started a new research line on self-medication in birds. Working mostly with birds, our research has been typically based on long-term monitoring of behavioural patterns and life histories of marked individuals. By linking individual behaviour with population ecology, our aim was to find answers to fundamental questions in behavioural ecology through a deep knowledge of the species and systems studied, that could also later be applied to their conservation.
    • Animal Functional Ecology: We are a researchers’ group united by the same fascination, the study of animal ecology. We combine evolutionary ecology approach to the study of the physiological mechanisms that are coming into the base of the adaptations we studied. This multidisciplinary perspective (behavioural ecology, physiology and genetics) allows us to more inclusive understanding of evolutionary processes, and also allows us to have physiological tools with which we can measure the adequacy of the organisms into the environment.
    • History and Documentation of the Natural Science: The group "History and documentation of Natural Sciences" (HISTORNAT) focuses on the analysis of the history of Natural Sciences in our country and its impact on society. This is an inexcusable objective in an institution like the National Museum of Natural Sciences, with a long and significant scientific career, center and motor in our country of both biological and geological disciplines since its foundation in 1771, and in which it has always been present the study of the history of science. Our group, through multidisciplinary and cross-disciplinary research, recognizes the interest that biology knowledge has for investigation, as well as data from heritage documents, scientific collections and scientific dissemination activities adressed to both general and specialized public.
    • Ecosystem Biogeochemistry: This group studies relationships between organisms and their environment, emphasizing effects that global change trigger on biogeochemical cycles, their dynamics and structure of inland ecosystems.
    • Microbial ecology and geomicrobiology of lithic substrate (ECOGEO): ECOGEO completes an integrated and multidisciplinary research of the microbiota colonizing the lithic substrate, particularly from poliextreme environments. Our studies involve not only the analysis of diversity but also microhabitat physical-chemical and geochemical characterization, substrate bioreceptivity, and the dynamics of lithic microbial ecosystems. Microscopy and molecular biology are combined for genetic and ultra-structural characterization of diversity and its organization of their components. Micro-analytical strategies reveal microorganism-mineral relationships and the presence of biomarkers and microbial fossils. The study of microbial ecosystems in monumental stones allows us to diagnose biodeterioration processes, as well as a possible control. Our studies, with multiple international connections, contribute to determine the ecological role of lithic ecosystems and participation in biogeochemical cycles, as well as their capacity of response to global change
    • Biogeography and Global Change: The main research lines are: (1) The effects of global change (i.e., temperature, nitrogen and aridity increase) on terrestrial ecosystems, especially in the Mediterranean region. (2) The interaction among different global change drivers (e.g. land use, climate, biotic factors) on key species and communities. (3) Scientific support for conservation, restoration and reforestation that have a solid ecological base and that explicitly contemplate the impact of climate, land use and community changes. (4) Long-term follow-up of natural reference systems of protected natural reserves and of recovered or reforested ecosystems. Ongoing research is giving rise to emerging research lines that will in turn define future activities. The knowledge we hope to acquire should be transferable to end users such as companies, technical and management bodies of natural reserves and resources.
    • Organic Matter in Soils and Sediments (MOSS): MOSS group represents an international reference laboratory in Organic Geochemistry and the first group in Spain in studying Humus Chemistry. The group have contributed decisively to the advance of knowledge in the molecular characterization of humic substances present in soils, water and sediments, as well as in fossil resources (peat, coals, kerogens, etc.) and residues with use in agriculture (composts, fertilizer humates, biochar, etc.). The group maintains an applied multidisciplinar R+D+I strategy, frequent and stable collaborations with national and international research groups.
    • Biodiversity and Evolutionary Biology Research Group: We aim to discover, inventory and classify biodiversity and to understand the evolutionary processes underlying animal diversification. We develop strategies and best practices for the inventory, discovery and description of biodiversity, using state-of-the-art phenotypic, genetic data and bioinformatics approaches. We apply homology-based classification techniques based on morphological, molecular and behavioral data, and develop theoretical foundations for taxonomic inference. To investigate the evolutionary process of diversification we use molecular phylogenetics, phylogeography and population genetics, as well as NGS-based genomic data, to address questions pertaining to evolutionary biology, ecology and systematics. We are interested in the relative roles of historical and ecological factors in promoting population structuring, speciation, adaptation, and the evolution of life-history traits in a broad range of vertebrate and invertebrate animals at a global scale.
    • Evolutionary patterns and processes in aquatic organisms: Our research group investigates the evolutionary mechanisms shaping aquatic ecosystems, both marine and freshwater, and aims at characterizing their biodiversity. We investigate the evolutionary history of aquatic systems, and the different processes generating biodiversity. We use taxonomical, morphological, ecological, behavioral and genetic data to understand the past and future evolutionary trajectories of the aquatic systems. We are particularly interested in the future perspectives.
    • Arthropod evolution and diversity: To identify evolutionary processes related to the origin of Biodiversity, focussed on processes of species formation, hybridization and evolutionary radiations, through diverse geographic scales, in taxononomically complex Arthropds. The formation of cryptic species is a widespread phenomenon in nature, which has a real incidence on animal biodiversity estimates. It has been proposed that the formation of cryptic species is directly related with the existence of divergent phylogeographic (mitochondrial) lineages, and dependent on the time elapsed since the lineages diverged. There are situations in which the probability of formation of cryptic species seems to be increased, independently of speciation mode or phylogeographic structure, These cases correspond to extreme adaptation and loss of morphological characters (as it is the case of subterranean environments or in parasitic taxa) or to the existence of paedomorphosis as a consequence of heterochronic processes.

    Research Fields

    • Mineralogy, geochemistry and meteorites
    • Geoenvironmental records of Global Change and Georisks
    • Paleoanthropology
    • Paleobiology of Cenozoic Vertebrates
    • Ecology of freshwater fish populations and communities
    • Reproductive Ecology and Biology Group
    • Ecology and conservation of birds
    • Animal Functional Ecology
    • History and Documentation of the Natural Science
    • Ecosystem Biogeochemistry
    • Microbial ecology and geomicrobiology of lithic substrate (ECOGEO)
    • Biogeography and Global Change
    • Organic Matter in Soils and Sediments (MOSS)
    • Biodiversity and Evolutionary Biology Research Group
    • Evolutionary patterns and processes in aquatic organisms
    • Arthropod evolution and diversity

    Research Initiative


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