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Good Samples Under the Glass

The collections housed in natural history museums are providing researchers a backward glimpse in time, the New York Times reports.

It reports that the collection at the Zoological Museum of the Zoological Institute of the Russian Academy of Science in St. Petersburg, Russia, is helping fuel new scientific studies. The museum was created, the Times notes, using specimens acquired by Peter the Great some 300 years ago. Some of these specimens have now been used in genetic studies. For instance, the Times says the museum collection has two California condors that were acquired in 1851 and has provided feather samples to researchers studying the endangered bird's genetics. Similarly, researchers are studying the genes of a bird called the slender billed curlew, it adds.

"For certain kinds of studies, such as species endangerment and the loss of genetic diversity, this is turning out to be increasingly important," Ross MacPhee, curator of mammals at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, tells the paper. "Natural history museums are literally the only places where you will find good quality remains."