History of the Section

The earliest museum mammal specimens kept in Moscow University, 21 in total, were mentioned in Fischer's catalogue of the Cabinet of 1805. They all were perished in 1812. After that, the stuffed skins of recent mammals and occasionally fossil skulls and teeth, as well as gypsum moulds, came to the Cabinet. These were isolated specimens, usually inappropriately labeled and designed mainly for teaching. Many of them were lost, some delivered later to the Paleontological Museum.

Growth of mammal collections remained pretty slow during the entire second half of 19th century, mainly due to dominating role of Zoological Museum in St.Petersburg. However, there were very interesting and important acquisitions, especially collections of N.A. Severtsov and A.P. Fedchenko from C Asia. Due to A.P. Bogdanov's activity, not numerous, but very interesting specimens were obtained from some of European museums, from sea voyages, etc. By the end of that century, the total amount of mammal specimens did not exceed significantly 1.000 items.

A new stage of development of mammal collection began with S.I. Ognev who was assistant of G.A. Kozhevnikov at the Museum and got interested in taxonomy and fauna of small mammals. He understood that this subject requested numerous collections and not just unit specimens. He started with collecting samples that included tens of specimens to came to the Museum. Later, when Ognev left official position at the Museum, he began gathering his own collection of small mammals which soon exceeded the Museum one. Ognev's collection was delivered later to the Museum to become a significant part of it.

The strategy of development of mammal collections in the 1930-50s was determined by W.G. Heptner, then head of the Section. In particular, his involvement in initiatives with national network of reserves made it possible to obtained thousands of mammals that were being collected in respective regions.

In 1941-1943 some collections were packed and removed to Ashkhabat accompanied by Heptner. And it was L.G. Morozova-Turova (S.S. Turov's wife) who was in charge of safety of collections remained in Moscow and for their subsequent recover. She continued to lead the Section a subsequent decade or so and made great deal of curatorial job. She initiated catalogue with individual cards, and due to her activity collection stock grew up to about 60.000, as compared to about 30.000 at the and of the 1930s.

O.L. Rossolimo became head of the Section in 1959 and, in her turn, changed the collection policy which in part continued the Ognev's one. From that time on, acquiring of extensive samples of hundreds of specimens of small mammals became the main principle. Due to this, the number of specimens rose to 100,000, and in subsequent several decades it became about 150,000. Such huge samples, as the one including several thousands specimens of rodents and shrews from middle part of the Yenissei River basin, became not very rare in the Section.

Moving of mammal collection into new rooms became the most significant stage in the most recent history of the Section. This made it possible to improve storage of collections and to gather them in several rooms embedded along one lobby.

During this period, several well-known experts was working as the Section staff members, these are V.A. Dolgov (specialist on insectivores), E.N. Matyushkin (specialist in larger cats); I.Ya. Pavlinov has been working since 1971 till now. E.L. Yakhontov (specialist on dormice) was in the Section staff  during 1986-1995, he acted as its head in 1995, then the Section was headed by. In 1991, its staff was widened by A.V. Borissenko and S.V. Kruskop (both experts on bats); in 1999 by N.N. Spasskaya (specialist on wild horses); and in 2001 by A.A. Lissovsky (specialist on lagomorphs), and A.A. Panyutina (then a graduate, now expert in bat flying locomotion). A little bit later Borissenko and Panyutina left the museum, while Lissovsky became the head of the Section of Evolutionary Morphology. In the most recent years, V.S. Lebedev (expert on molecular phylogenetics) and O.G. Nanova (expert on morphometrics) became members of the Section staff. In 2009, Kruskop was appointed head of the Section, while Spasskaya started to serve as Secretary for Research of the museum, remaining curator of the ungulate collection.