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: World's first microbe 'zoo' opens in Amsterdam

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

World's first microbe 'zoo' opens in Amsterdam

15 hours ago

The world's first "interactive microbe zoo" opened in Amsterdam on Tuesday, shining new light on the tiny creatures that make up two-thirds of all living matter and are vital for our planet's future.

Study shows how chimpanzees share skills

16 hours ago

Evidence of new behaviour being adopted and transmitted socially from one individual to another within a wild chimpanzee community is publishing on September 30 in the open access journal PLOS Biology. This i ...

Little blue penguin back at sea after hospital stint

21 hours ago

Wildbase Recovery Community Trust ambassador and Rangitikei MP Ian McKelvie joined Massey University veterinary staff to release a little blue penguin back into the sea at Himatangi Beach this morning.

User comments : 0