Brazil fire burns huge collection of dead snakes

May 16, 2010 By TALES AZZONI , Associated Press Writer

(AP) -- A fire in Brazil destroyed what may be the world's largest scientific collection of dead snakes, spiders and scorpions that served as the main source for research on many species, scientists said Sunday.

Members of the Instituto Butantan said the nearly 100-year-old collection lost in Saturday's fire included almost 80,000 snakes and several thousand specimens of spiders and scorpions. The specimens were used to study evolution and provided information on how to avert extinctions, said institute director Otavio Mercadante.

"The entire collection was lost, the biggest collection of snakes in the world," curator Francisco Franco told Globo TV and other local media. "It's a loss to humanity."

The institute's live animals were kept at a building adjacent to the one burned, and volunteers rushed to remove them in case the fire spread. The fire did not hurt any humans or live animals.

Many of the animals are used in the production of vaccines and biopharmaceuticals, some derived from venom.

Officials said the production of vaccines and other drugs will not be affected.

"Even if we could gather another collection with 100,000 specimens, the historic value would still be lost," researcher Thais Guedes said.

Some of the specimens had not yet been catalogued.

Authorities said an investigation on what caused the fire was immediately opened. A faulty electrical circuit was among the main possibilities being looked into. The laboratory where the collection was located was open only to researchers and students, but authorities did not immediately discard the possibility of arson.

The dead specimens were preserved in flammable liquids, which helped spread of the flames, said firefighter Capt. Miguel Jodas.

Institute officials said they are already working on a plan to start rebuilding the collection.

Explore further: Male monkey filmed caring for dying mate (w/ Video)

5 /5 (1 vote)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Historic plant type specimens to go digital

Apr 12, 2006

A unique collection of plant specimens that is part of The Academy of Natural Sciences' world-renowned herbarium soon will be viewable through the Internet, thanks to a grant from the National Science Foundation.

Recommended for you

Male monkey filmed caring for dying mate (w/ Video)

Apr 18, 2014

(Phys.org) —The incident was captured by Dr Bruna Bezerra and colleagues in the Atlantic Forest in the Northeast of Brazil.  Dr Bezerra is a Research Associate at the University of Bristol and a Professor ...

Orchid named after UC Riverside researcher

Apr 17, 2014

One day about eight years ago, Katia Silvera, a postdoctoral scholar at the University of California, Riverside, and her father were on a field trip in a mountainous area in central Panama when they stumbled ...

In sex-reversed cave insects, females have the penises

Apr 17, 2014

Researchers reporting in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on April 17 have discovered little-known cave insects with rather novel sex lives. The Brazilian insects, which represent four distinct but re ...

Fear of the cuckoo mafia

Apr 17, 2014

If a restaurant owner fails to pay the protection money demanded of him, he can expect his premises to be trashed. Warnings like these are seldom required, however, as fear of the consequences is enough to ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Biologists help solve fungi mysteries

(Phys.org) —A new genetic analysis revealing the previously unknown biodiversity and distribution of thousands of fungi in North America might also reveal a previously underappreciated contributor to climate ...

Researchers successfully clone adult human stem cells

(Phys.org) —An international team of researchers, led by Robert Lanza, of Advanced Cell Technology, has announced that they have performed the first successful cloning of adult human skin cells into stem ...

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...

Ex-Apple chief plans mobile phone for India

Former Apple chief executive John Sculley, whose marketing skills helped bring the personal computer to desktops worldwide, says he plans to launch a mobile phone in India to exploit its still largely untapped ...

Filipino tests negative for Middle East virus

A Filipino nurse who tested positive for the Middle East virus has been found free of infection in a subsequent examination after he returned home, Philippine health officials said Saturday.

Egypt archaeologists find ancient writer's tomb

Egypt's minister of antiquities says a team of Spanish archaeologists has discovered two tombs in the southern part of the country, one of them belonging to a writer and containing a trove of artifacts including reed pens ...

Airbnb rental site raises $450 mn

Online lodging listings website Airbnb inked a $450 million funding deal with investors led by TPG, a source close to the matter said Friday.