The Department of Natural Sciences was founded in 1971. Its fundamental objective was the preservation, research and development of the collections of geology, paleontology and biology, owned by the History Department since 1952. The basis of these collections was laid by Tiberiu Jurcsák and his collaborators in 1950 and then enriched by the scientific staff of the department. The patrimony of the department has increased to a number of 158.385 registered pieces, of which over 84.000 in the field of geology-paleontology and over 48.000 in the field of biology.
The collections are structured on two domains: paleontology and geological evolution of the western part of Romania, with the Triassic marine vertebrates, fossil plants from the Inferior Jurassic, dinosaurs from the Cretaceous and Pleistocene vertebrates; and biology, botany and zoology, with remarkable malacological and oological collections.
A. THE BIOLOGY COLLECTION
1. The botany collection
The botany collection contains a total number of 5000 specimens from 400 species. It includes the Schreiber Theodor collection (a herbarium dating from 1866), the Simonkai Lajos collection (from 1954) and the herbarium made by the museum’s specialists. The Schreiber collection contains 820 sheets with 1537 specimens coming from all over Europe and the Apuseni and Rodnei Mountains obtained in exchange from some of the greatest European botanists. The oldest specimen was collected in 1832. The Simonkai collection contains 1563 specimens from Romania. The rest of the specimens from the Botany collection come from North-Western Romania and Apuseni Mountains.
2. The zoology collection
2.1. The malacology collection
It contains mollusk shells of Gastropoda, Lamellibranchiata and Cephalopoda classes (6062 specimens belonging to 1100 species) that were collected starting with 1914, originating from all over Romania, Europe and almost all the oceans of the world (Atlantic Ocean, Northern Sea, Israel, Africa, North, Central and South America, Indian Ocean, Indonesia, Japan, New Zealand). A part of the collection consists of: the Melanopsidae collection of dr. Tóth Mihály – the discoverer of the fossil site of Betfia, the type locality for Biharian. A part of the collection includes dr. Karl Brančik’s (1842-1915) exhibits. He was the founder of the Natural Sciences Museum and Society in Trenčin (Slovakia). He made collection exchanges with 125 scientific institutions. There is also a part of dr. doc. Al. V. Grossu’s collection (4800 specimens belonging to 400 autochthonous species). Among them there are many specimens of the endemic Alopiinae, as well as relict species of Bihor County (Melanopsis parreyssii, Theodoxus prevostianus).
2.2. The entomology collection
The entomological collection contains over 4600 specimens collected starting with 1952, representing over 500 species belonging to orders Coleoptera, Orthoptera, Dictyoptera, Odonata, Hymenoptera, Diptera, Lepidoptera, Heteroptera, Homoptera, Dermaptera, Trichoptera, Neuroptera, Plecoptera and Ephemeroptera, with specimens from the Romanian fauna, as well as Coleoptera and Lepidoptera from Europe, North and South America, Africa, Asia and Australia. The collection also includes rare and protected species such as Rosalia alpina, Morimus funereus, Lucanus cervus or Cerambyx cerdo, and also Ornithoptera (Troides) goliath procus – the largest butterfly in the world.
2.3. The oology collection
It is the largest oology collection in Central and Eastern Europe, with an inestimable scientific importance. It contains 14000 specimens, representing 365 genera and 660 species of the following orders: Struthioformes, Rheiformes, Casuariiformes, Tinamiformes, Gaviiformes, Podicipediformes, Procellariiformes, Pelecaniformes, Ciconiiformes, Phoenicopteriformes, Anseriformes, Falconiformes, Galliformes, Gruiformes, Charadriiformes, Columbiformes, Psittaciformes, Cuculiformes, Strigiformes, Caprimulgiformes, Apodiformes, Coraciiformes, Piciformes, Passeriformes. The collection consists of three main parts, of which the most important one comes from Ernest Andrássy’s collection, while the rest is the result of the museum specialists’ work (Tamás Béczy, Kováts Ludovic and Poliş Rozalia).
It contains over 3600 clutches coming from Europe, Asia, Africa, North and South America and Australia. The oldest egg in the collection belonged to Struthio camelus and it was collected in the Egyptian Sahara in 1860. Many of the specimens have been collected in the last decades of the 19th century, but the largest number of specimens were collected at the beginning of the 20th century. The most common specimen in the collection are the nesting birds from Romania, as the collection contains 80% of our country’s nesting bird species.
2.4. The ornithology collection
The ornithological collection contains naturalized specimens, mounts and skeletons; there are 1829 specimens, representing 207 species from the following orders: Rheiformes, Casuariiformes, Gaviiformes, Podicipediformes, Pelecaniformes, Ciconiformes, Phoenicopteriformes, Anseriformes, Falconiformes, Galliformes, Gruiformes, Charadriiformes, Cuculiformes, Columbiformes, Strigiformes, Caprimulgiformes, Apodiformes, Coraciiformes, Piciformes and Passeriformes.
The most representative species are the diurnal and nocturnal birds of prey, the woodpecker species, bustards, white and black storks, ducks, geese, spoonbills, cranes, mountain cock or singing bird species etc.
2.5. The mammal collection
The mammal collection contains 350 mounted specimens and skeletons representing 58 species, collected from the north-west of Romania. The most representative species belong to the following orders: Rodentia, Insectivora, Chiroptera, Lagomorpha, Artiodactyla, and Carnivora.
B. THE PALEONTOLOGY COLLECTION
1. The collection of marine vertebrates from the Middle Triassic
This collection is one of outmost importance, with specimens found in our county (Peştiş and Lugaşu de Sus) aged approximately 240 million years. Among the known species are marine reptiles (Mixosaurus cf. helveticus, Proganochelys sp., Psephoderma sp., Placochelys aff. placodonta, Placodus gracilis, Pachypleurosaurus sp., Simosaurus sp., Terratosaurus sp.) and fish (Hybodus reticulatus, Hybodus cf. multiconus, Acrodus cf. lateralis, Palaeobates angustissimus, Serrolepis cf. suevicus, Gyrolepis quenstedti). Tanystropheus biharicus and Nothosaurus transsylvanicus are new species described by T. Jurcsak, represented by the holotypes and other specimens coming from other typical localities.
2. The collection of vertebrates from Early Cretaceous – Cornet
80 percent of the osteological material that is part of this collection belong to a group of ornithischian dinosaurs (Dryosauridae, Camptosauridae, Iguanodontidae) and to the group of nodosaurids. Rare skeleton fragments of pterosaurids include Gallodactylus, Dsungaripterus and Pterodactyloidae. E. Kesller and T. Jurcsak described two new bird species: Eurolimnornis corneti and Palaeocursornis biharicus. The fossil deposit 204 Lentil Cornet was discovered in 1978 in a bauxite mine. The age of the bauxite deposit is terminal Berriasian – Valanginian (or basal Hauterivian).
3.The collection of fossil plants
This collection consists of impressions and compressions of different vegetative organs of plants belonging to the orders Chlorophyta, Pteridophyta, Gymnospermatophyta and Angiospermatophyta. The first specimen was collected in 1945 from the argillaceous shales of the Şuncuiuş Formation (Early Jurassic). The collection contains specimens from different geological ages, starting with Carbonifer and Permian, Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous, then Palaeogene, Neogene to Pleistocene and Holocene. Most of the specimens come from the Early Jurassic continental facies, from the Pădurea Craiului Mountains. Some of them belong to rare and exotic taxa, having paleo-phyitogeographical or stratigraphical importance: Equisetites arenaceus, Equisetites muensteri, Selenocarpus muensterianus, Dictyophyllum muensteri, Dictyophyllum nilsoni, Clathropteris meniscioides, Nilsonia comptula, Phoenicopsis speciosa, Phoenicopsis angustifolia, Podozamites angustifolius, Sphenopteris obtusifolia, Cladophlebis rumana, Cladophlebis virginiensis. Other taxa are new species such as the genus and species Receaphyllum grandis Czier, Cladophlebis semakai Czier, Cladophlebis silvaeregis Czier.
4.The collection of early Pleistocene vertebrates from Betfia
This collection of Early Pleistocene vertebrates (aged about 1,5 million years) gave us more than 200 vertebrate species among which new species (the bird Palergosteon tothi and the amphibians Pliobatrachus langhae and Parahynobius betfianus ). Among the fossil forms mentioned above, the primitive salamander Parahynobius betfianus (the Hynobiidae family that has nowadays an Asian distribution), is only known from Betfia 9C site, which is the only place in the European Quaternary where it has been identified and also, the last representative of palaeobatrachidae, Pliobatrachus langhae. Among the extinct lizards there is Pseudopus pannonicus (an apod lizard) and among the snakes, Elaphe paralongissima.
5. The collection of fossil and sub-fossil mammals
The collection consists of different skeleton parts, horns, ivory, teeth, agglomerates and bone complexes, cemented bones, in situ specimens with teeth or bone remains, bones with pathological deformations, coprolites, moulds, impressions, bite marks, bones with mechanical processing marks, tools made of horns, teeth, bones, pendants. The material mainly comes from collecting, paleontological surveys and diggings, completed by some donations and acquisitions. The first specimen was collected in 1895, from Oradea’s Villafranchian (Dealul Viilor). The collection contains specimens from Sarmatian, Pontian, Pliocene, Villafranchian, Pleistocene, Palaeolithic, Neolithic, Bronze Age, the historic ages until pre-feudalism. The species were collected in Crişana, Transilvania, Banat, Oltenia and belong to the following orders: Insectivora, Carnivora, Chiroptera, Proboscidea, Perissodactyla, Artiodactyla, Rodentia, Primates. The specimens that are older than Late Pleistocene belong to very rare taxa, such as Lagurus pannonicus, Deinotherium giganteum Kaup, Anancus arvernensis, Archidiskodon meridionalis, Sus erymanthius, Canis lupus mosbachensis, Homotherium moravicum, Ursus deningeri, Dicerorhinus etruscus, Bison schoettensacki. Most of the specimens come from Late Pleistocene and post-glacial cave deposits, from different archaeological levels.
6. The collection of fossil and sub-fossil birds
The collection consists of different skeleton and bone pieces with traces of processing. The material comes from collecting and digging to which some donations can be added. The first specimen has been collected in 1950, at Vadu Crişului. It contains specimens belonging to different geological ages, starting with the Neocomian to Neogen, Quaternary, Pleistocene and Holocene until Neolithic, Bronze and Hallstadt. At Betfia 5 new species were discovered and described: Pelargosteon tóthi Kretzoi and Corvus betfianus Kretzoi and the subspecies Perdix perdix jurcsáki Kretzoi. The most diverse ornithofauna is known from Betfia 9 point, with more than 60 different species.