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The visit of Joan Salvador i Riera to Mallorca and Menorca in 1711 marked the beginning of research on the flora of the Balearic Islands. Together with his brother, Josep Salvador, who also collected plants in Minorca in 1725, belonged to a dynasty of pharmacists who played an extremely important role in pre-Linnaean botanical studies in Catalonia. The subsequent introduction of Linnaeus’ systematics in almost all of Europe would later characterise most of the botanical studies during the Age of Enlightenment.

The reign of Carlos III is significant for having adopted the cultural values of the Enlightenment. George Cleghorn and John Armstrong published their works in Menorca, which at that time was under British sovereignty. In Mallorca, the scientific unrest was at that time represented by Bonaventura Serra and Cristòfol Vilella.

The figure of the geographer interested in natural science emerged coinciding with the founding of the “Real Sociedad Económica de Amigos del País” (Royal Economic Society of Friends of the Country). The works of Jeroni de Berard, Manuel Abad y Lasierra (first bishop of Eivissa) and José Vargas Ponce contain naturalist information interspersed with geographic descriptions.

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The Salvador family, a long line of reputable pharmacists and botanists, some of whom collected plants in the Balearic Islands.

  • Hypericum balearicum, a species collected by Joan Salvador i Riera during his botanical expeditions in 1711 in Mallorca and Menorca.
  • Drawing from the work “The History of the Island of Minorca”, published by John Armstrong in 1752.
  • Portrait and episcopal seal of Manuel Abad y Lasierra, author of the first geographic description of Eivissa and Formentera.

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Covers of the most important books by Linnaeus.

  • Covers and various fragments of “Descripciones de las Islas Pithiusas y Baleares” including some naturalistic information, by the geographer José Vargas Ponce.


Bonaventura Serra i Ferragut is undoubtedly one of Mallorca’s most outstanding representatives of the Age of Enlightenment. His profound knowledge ranged from law to archaeology. As a general chronicler of the Kingdom of Mallorca, he was responsible for founding the Royal Economic Society of Friends of the Country. He also collaborated with the geographer Vargas Ponce, the Valencian botanist Cavanilles and the French botanists Cusson and Richard during their visits to Mallorca. Among other works, he wrote “Flora balearica exhibens plantas in insula Majorica crescentes” in 1772. 

Another good example of the enlightenment mind in Mallorca is Cristòfol Vilella, who was funded by Carlos III to draw and paint the island’s animals and plants. He sent notes and material representing the nature of the Balearic Islands to Madrid, where they were included in the collection of curiosities in the Royal Natural History Museum. Some of his paintings are kept in the Fine Arts Academy of San Fernando. 

The works of both characters place us at the time when modern biology was first being established. However, natural objects were still valued based on their comparative significance and rarity instead of as material for scientific study. 

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Bonaventura Serra Ferragut, Mallorcan naturalist and writer of the 18th century. 

  • One of the most well-known works by Bonaventura Serra, a manuscript on the Balearic Flora. The plants are classified according to prelinnean nomenclature. 
  • A collection of manuscripts about the nature of the Balearic Islands, by Bonaventura Serra, kept in the private archive of the Marquis of Campofranco in Palma. 
  • Copy of the manuscript by Cristòfol Vilella, which was sent together with faunal specimens from the Balearic Islands to the “Real Gabinete de Historia Natural” (Royal Natural History Museum). This manuscript contains a detailed description of the specimens sent. 

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Two Mediterranean crabs figured in C. Vilella’s manuscript, with the same popular name they have nowadays in Catalan: “cranc reial” (Calappa granulata) and “cranc pelut” (Eriphia verrucosa). 

  • Some of the original plates by Bonaventura Serra used in his unfinished work “Historia Natural del Reyno de Mallorca”.
  • Plates of Mallorcan fauna by C. Vilella. They are one of the first illustrations of Mallorcan insects, with easily identifiable genera.
  • Insects in one of Cristòfol Vilella’s plate: Scoliidae, Ligeidae, Sphyngidae, Carabidae and Chrysomelidae.


The transition from the 18th to the 19th century were prosperous years in Menorca, with an intense commercial activity in the port of Maó. The frequent changes in sovereignty in Menorca and the formation of a Menorcan social elite, which kept up to date with the latest advances in British and French science, fostered a cultural dynamism that was also evident in natural science.   

Joan Ramis i Ramis was the first prehistory researcher in Spain, and in 1818 he published his book on Celtic antiquities in the island of Menorca “Antigüedades célticas de la isla de Menorca”. He was also a pioneer in the study of the Balearic nature, since four years earlier he published the book “Specimen animalium, vegetabilium, et mineralium in insula Minorica frequentiorum ad normam linnaeani sistematis”, using Linnean nomenclature in reference books for the first time in the islands. Quite justifiably, some mistakes in this small book were criticised by Rafael Hernández i Mercadal, a doctor and botanist from Maó. The ensuing bitter argument between the two authors is an example of the degree to which natural science was debated during that period in Menorca. 

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The dynamic cultural atmosphere in Menorca during the first half of the 19th century is reflected in this informative article on botany published in the “Semanario de la Isla de Menorca” in 1811. 

  • Joan Ramis i Ramis, a Minorcan nature and prehistory researcher, was the first compiler of Balearic fauna, flora and gea that used Linnean classification.  
  • The most important naturalist work by Joan Ramis i Ramis, published in 1814, using the popular names of plants and animals of the country. 

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Part of the work by Joan Ramis i Ramis.

  • An extract from the ensuing argument after the publication of “Specimen animalium…” by Ramis.
  • Mediterranean seal (Monachus monachus), still common along our coasts at the beginning of the 19th century. Ramis thought that the Mediterranean seal belonged to the Linnean species Phoca vitulina, the only species of seal described until then. 
  • Panoramic view of the port of Maó at the end of the 18th century. 


Jacques Cambessédès, a botanist from Montpellier, came to the Balearic Islands shortly after botanical lists were first published in Menorca, such as the one by the doctor from Ciutadella, Joan Cusach (in 1791), and by Joan Ramis i Ramis (in 1814). This was also at the same time as the herbarium by Andreu and Rafael Hernández, with more than 500 Menorcan species, was being mounted. Cambessédès collected and studied the plants in Mallorca, Menorca and Ibiza between March and June 1825. His work “Enumeratio plantarum quas in insulis Balearibus collegit J. Cambessedes” was the first published significant study on the botany of the Balearic Islands.

This stage continued with the collections and lists of plants by Fernando Weyler in Mallorca, and Rafael Oleo i Quadrado in Menorca, culminating with the prospections another botanist from Montpellier, Paul Marès, in 1850, 1852 and 1855. Those works, especially the “Catalogue raisonné des Plantes vasculaires des Iles Baléares” (published several years later together with Virgineux), were among the most important ones of that time.

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Genista lucida, an abundant species in the Artà region, described and drawn by Jacques Cambessédès in 1827, based on Mallorcan specimens.

  • Paeonia cambessedesii, an endemic plant that only grows on Mallorca, Menorca and Cabrera, which was dedicated to the botanist Cambessédès by Willkomm.
  • Helichrysum ambiguum, and endemic species of eastern Balearic Islands, drawn by Cambessédès.
  • Drawing by Cambessédès of the endemic species Sibthorpia africana, described in 1753 by Linnaeus, who mistakenly believed that this plant came from Africa.
  • Cover of the book on Balearic flora by Cambessédès.
  • Weyler’s copy of some drawings by Cambessédès.

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Ranunculus weyleri, a species only found in the mountains of Mallorca and which was dedicated to Fernando Weyler by Marès and Virgineux.

  • Cover of Weyler’s handwritten copy of a work on the Globularia genus.

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Viola jaubertiana, an endemic species of the Mallorcan mountains, described by Marès and Virgineux in 1880.

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Euphorbia maresii, an interesting endemic species, which was dedicated to the botanist Palul Marès by Knoche.


The first studies on the geology of Mallorca and Menorca were carried out by Alberto de La Marmora in 1833. Although his work contained many mistakes and often lacked precision, he deserves recognition for having pioneered geological research in the Balearic Islands, and also for his scientific skill in perceiving the complex structure of the main mountain range, the Serra de Tramuntana. 

A significant advance was apparent a few years later in the works of Paul Bouvy, a Belgian engineer who came to Mallorca to manage a lignite mine. His work, and that of the French geologist Henri Hermite, published shortly afterwards, are the most important ones dealing with the geology of the Balearic Islands. Hermite, together with Haime, added a considerable amount of palaeontological and stratigraphic new data on our islands. 

There were no substantial changes after Hermite’s interpretations of the Balearic geology until the works by H. Nolan at the end of the century. 

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First geological map of Mallorca by Alberto de La Marmora.

  • Alberto de la Marmora, soldier and geologist born in Turin in 1789.
  • Cover of the first publication describing the geology of Mallorca.
  • Geological map of Mallorca published by Paul Bouvy in 1867.
  • Cover of Paul Bouvy’s most important work. 
  • Fragment of a manuscript by Bouvy, explaining the bases of stratigraphy.  

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Geological cross section of Puig de l’Ofre, according to Hermite.

  • Geological cross section of El Toro (Menorca), according to Hermite. 
  • Geographical connections between the Balearic Islands and the nearest emerged land, according to a drawing in the book by Hermite. 

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Geological map of the Balearic Islands by Henri Hermite, Lluís M. Vidal and Eugenio Molina (1879).

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Fossil species described by Henri Hermite.

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Fossils studied by Jules Haime, who was the first author to describe new fossil   species in Mallorca.



Biological knowledge in the Balearic Islands developed considerably with the publications by Francesc Barceló i Combis and Joan Joaquim Rodríguez i Femenias, specifically with several synthesis works such as “Catálogo de los mamíferos observados en las islas Baleares”, “Flora de las islas Baleares”, “Catálogo razonado de las plantas vasculares de Menorca” and “Historia natural de las Baleares (Zoología)”. 

The professional profile of both authors reflects the social changes that occurred throughout the 19th century. J.J. Rodríguez i Femenias, from Menorca, was a banker who was first interested in botany in 1861, and later became a well-known specialist in marine algae. His friend, F. Barceló i Combis, born in Peratallada (Catalonia), was a physics and chemistry teacher at the Balearic Institute and played an important role in the revitalisation of natural science in Mallorca. 

Joan Joaquim Rodríguez i Femenias was one of the founders of the “Real Sociedad Española de Historia Natural” (Spanish Royal Natural History Society), and published many works in Spanish and French botanical magazines where he described several new plants species. The German algologist F. Schmith dedicated the genus Rodriguezella to him. 

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Joan Joaquim Rodríguez i Femenias, an outstanding Minorcan naturalist who made numerous botanical findings and initiated the study of algae in the Balearics.  

  • Cover of the most well-known work by Rodríguez i Femenias.
  • Cover of one of the algological works where the species discovered by Rodriguez i Femenias are described.
  • Plate describing the algae Nitophyllum carneum.

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  • Galium crespianum, an endemic plant from Mallorca and the Pityusic Islands, described by J.J. Rodríguez i Femenias in 1879.
  • Senecio rodriguezii, an interesting species growing along the coasts of Mallorca and Menorca, which was dedicated to the Menorcan botanist by Willkomm.  
  • Centaurea balearica, a plant only found in Menorca and described by Rodríguez i Femenias.
  • Algae from the Mediterranean Sea.
  • Herbarium folder with specimens of Bupleurum barceloi, an endemic plant of Mallorca and Ibiza. Willkomm dedicated this species, commonly known as “claveller de penyal”, to Barceló i Combis. 
  • The most popular work by Francesc Barceló i Combis, “Flora de las Islas Baleares”.


The second half of the 19th century was a crucial period in the development of zoology in the Balearic Islands. From that time, it is worth mentioning the numerous inventories of fauna, the systematisation of specimen capture and the formation of the first zoological collections. 

In Menorca, the priest Francesc Cardona made an important contribution, particularly as a very active collector in the field of malacology, and also with his publications on Coleoptera and his research on entomology applied to sericulture. At the end of the century, Fernando Moragues published research on different groups of insects on Mallorca. Regarding the Balearic vertebrates, the Valencian Eduard Boscà is significant because of his studies on reptiles and amphibians of the Pityusic Islands. 

Finally, the last few years oh the 19th century correspond to the “discovery” of the Balearic Islands by European naturalists. Evidence of that are the important papers by Koch (arachnids and myriapods), Schaufuss (coleopterans) and Von Homeyer (birds), published between 1862 and 1881. 

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Francesc Cardona i Orfila, a Menorcan naturalist. Cardona contributed greatly to the knowledge of Menorcan invertebrates.  

  • Cover of one of the most important entomological works by Francesc Cardona i Orfila.
  • Antherea pernyi, a moth originally from southern China. It was breed on the island of Menorca in 1861, in hopes it would acclimate. In the Far East, this butterfly produces the famous Shang-Tung silk.
  • One of the works by Cardona i Orfila on the acclimatisation of Antherea pernyi in the oakwoods of Menorca. 

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One of the main works by Eduard Boscà on herpetofauna of the Pityusic Islands. 

  • Podarcis pityusensis, a small endemic lizard species from the Pityusic Islands, with more than forty described subspecies. 
  • One of the most important foreign works on Balearic invertebrates of the period (arachnids and myriapods), published by Koch in 1881.
  • Drawing of two beetles in the entomological work by Schaufuss in 1881. 

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One of the contributions to malacology of Mallorca by Fernando Moragues. 

  • Plates of Balearic landsnails, published by Joaquín G. Hidalgo in 1884.
  • Two beetles of the Carabus genus; one of the many species cited by F. Moragues in his lists of Mallorcan fauna.


The dominant figure in the Balearic botany during the second half of the 19th century was Moritz Willkomm, from Germany. The results of his frequent journeys to the Iberian Peninsula and the Balearic Islands were published in “Prodromus Florae Hispanicae”. He was then able to produce his “Index plantarum…”, containing new information on flora obtained during his visit to the Balearic Islands in 1873, and also the book “Illustrationes Florae Hispaniae insularumque Balearium” in 1881. This author brought to an end a fundamental period in the study of Balearic flora, which would continue during the 20th century. 

The unique personality of Archduke Ludwig Salvator of Austria helped, to a great extent, to encourage nature studies in the Balearic Islands, and many researchers visited the islands thanks to his patronage. He himself wrote a book on coleopterans of Mallorca, and he frequently collaborated with other naturalists, such as Cardona i Orfila and Odón de Buen, who were among his friends.

A botanical team from Geneva, led by Chodat, made some progress during their stay in Miramar. In recognition to the Archduke’s help, they dedicated him the species Rhamnus ludovici-salvatoris.  

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Original drawing by Willkomm, showing the balearica form of the Anthyllis vulneraria species. 

  • The name in the plate is different, as recent studies have modified the name Willkomm gave it in his work.
  • Plate by Moritz Willkomm including the interesting endemic species Crepis triasii, described by Cambessédès in 1827.
  • Several species of the genus Teucrium, in a plate drawn by Willkomm. 

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Plantago coronopus ssp. purpurescens and Micromeria inodora. 

Rhamnus ludovici-salvatoris, a common endemic species in eastern Balearic Islands, dedicated to the Archduke Ludwig Salvator by Chodat. 

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The Archduke Ludwig Salvator, whose work to promote research into nature in the Balearic Islands must be emphasised. 

  • Illustration from the Archduke’s fundamental work, “Die Balearen”, showing a view of the Tagomago island near the coast of Ibiza.  


During an oceanographic expedition in 1904, the Romanian biologist Émile George Racovitza came to Mallorca and explored the underground lakes in the Coves del Drac, where he discovered a small cave-dwelling crustacean he called Typhlocirolana moraguesi. From then on, Racovitza took a great interest in the biology of cave-living organisms and became the founder of modern biospeleology when he published his acclaimed “Essai sur les problèmes biospéologiques” in 1907.    

A few years later, another interesting discovery was made in a small cave in the coast of Capdepera. Searching mammal fossils, the English palaeontologist Dorothea Bate found the remains of bovid bones with very unusual anatomical characteristics. That animal had evolved for some millions of years under the insular conditions of our islands and received the scientific name Myotragus balearicus.  

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Émile G. Racovitza, biologist of Romanian origin, who explored the Coves del Drac looking for fauna, and visited the marine biology laboratory of Porto Pi. 

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Typhlocirolana moraguesi, an interesting species of crustacean that lives in the brackish water lakes of the Coves del Drac.

  • Topographic map of the Coves del Drac, including the new chambers discovered by Edouard-Alfred Martel in 1896. 
  • Drawing in the work “Álbum de las cuevas de Artà y Manacor”, by S. Gay and B. Champsaur, showing a subterranean landscape in the Coves del Drac.

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Dorothea Bate, palaeontologist who discovered several mammal fossil species in Mallorca and Menorca. 

  • Skull of Myotragus balearicus, revealing the particular teeth of this animal. 
  • Topographical map of Cova de na Barxa, where the remains of Myotragus balearicus were first found.  


As a result of negotiations by the Aragonese zoologist Odón de Buen, and his close connections with the principal oceanographic centres of that time, the Biological-Marine Laboratory of Porto Pi (Palma) was founded in 1906 by order of the Ministry of Public Education. The opening of the centre in 1908 was an important event in marine biology and brought to Majorca the leading scientists in oceanography, which was an emerging science at the beginning of the century. 

The founder of the “Laboratorio Biológico-Marino de Baleares” (Biological Marine Laboratory of the Balearic Islands), Odón de Buen, was a lecturer of zoology at the University of Barcelona. He was a dedicated exponent of Darwin’s theories in Spain and took an active part in the cultural and naturalistic events held in Mallorca. His passionate interest in spreading information about modern natural science (in opposition to religious authorities) and his activities as a republican resulted in his exile to Mexico for the last years of his life. 

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Sedimentary map of the bay of Palma, published in 1916 by Rafael de Buen y Lozano. 

  • Odón de Buen y del Cos, zoologist and founder of the Laboratorio Biológico-Marino of Porto Pi. He was the first director of the Spanish Oceanographic Institute. 
  • Building (that no longer exists) of the first oceanographic laboratory in the Balearic Islands, located in Porto Pi. 
  • The typical Mallorcan boat (llaüt) Lacaze-Duthiers, the first boat used to study marine biology in the Balearic Islands. 

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Preparations of cupleid scales. Initially, one of the Oceanographic Laboratory’s main lines of research was concerned with the biology of cupleids, specially sardinella and sardine, together with marine sedimentology and planktology.  

  • Samples of plankton collected at the beginning of the century by researchers at the Oceanographic Laboratory.
  • Box containing samples of marine sediment dredged from the Moroccan coast in the 1920s.  
  • The Marine-Biological Laboratory’s contribution to knowledge of fauna in the Balearic sea was considerable and covered a wide range of faunistic groups. This catalogue of tunicates from the collections in the centre in 1922 is a good example. 
  • An ascidian or marine tunicate that lives in the detrital depths of the Balearic sea. 


Studies on botany and zoology in the Balearic Islands made considerable progress during the first fifty years of this century. They reflect the biogeographical interest of the Balearic flora and fauna among the naturalists specialising in this area of the Mediterranean, and are the basis of the present-day knowledge. 

Many foreign botanists visited our islands, but none were as important as Herman Knoche, who published his “Flora Balearica” in 1921. Also outstanding were the exhaustive plant collections by two Brothers of La Salle, Sennen and Bianor, as well as the studies on local flora by Llorenç Garcias and Pere C. Palau.

In the field of zoology, this period was characterized by the quantity and quality of studies on vertebrates (particulary birds and reptiles), and also on invertebrates (mostly insects), such as those by Szymon Tenenbaum, Francesc Español, etc. Many of these researchers also counted with the enthusiastic collaboration of local entomologists.

The hydrobiological papers on algae, crustaceans and surface water ecology by Ramon Margalef are also within this period, which came to an end by the 1950s.  

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Brother Sennen, Carlos Pau and Pius Font i Quer, three outstanding botanists at the beginning of the century. 

  • Llorenç Garcias i Font, pharmacist and naturalist from Artà. He made important contributions on the Balearic flora and co-founded the Museu Regional d’Artà and the Societat d’Història Natural de les Balears. 
  • Pere C. Palau, author of many papers on Balearic flora and, among then, a monography on the vegetation of Cabrera. 
  • Cover of the two main geobotanical works on Balearic flora published at the beginning of the 20th century.
  • Chaenorhinum seeds, as shown in Herman Knoche’s work.  
  • Aristolochia bianorii, endemic species dedicated to the Brother Bianor by the botanists Sennen and Pau. 

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Drawing of fungi of the genera Tricholoma and Volvaria, from the work by L. Rolland. After arriving to Palma at the end of October 1903, Rolland chose the mountainous region of Sóller as a centre for his mycological research. Some of the names given to the species he discovered derive from the district’s place names, e.g. Volvaria sollerensis.   

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Cover of three publications representative of the research on several biological fields carried out during the first half of the 20th century. 

  • Henrotius jordai, the first species of cave-dwelling coleopteran discovered in the caves of Mallorca by Jordà and described by Reitter. 
  • Cover of the famous work by Szymon Tenenbaum, published in Warsaw in 1915.
  • Drawings of Cyanophyceae and aquatic algae in the monography on Ibiza by Margalef. 
  • Plate from the malacological work on the Pityusic Islands by A. Bofill and J.B. Aguilar-Amat.


The most significant advance in Balearic geology began in 1910 thanks to the works by Paul Fallot and Bartomeu Darder, whose close friendship and collaboration spanned several decades. The results of their research cast a completely new light on the stratigraphy and tectonics of our islands and culminated in the organisation of the 14th International Geological Congress in Mallorca in 1926.

The French geologist, Paul Fallot, published many works on the Balearic Islands, including his important doctoral thesis, “Étude géologique de la Sierra de Majorque” published in Paris. At the same time, Bartomeu Darder, who was born in Palma five years after Fallot and had known him since his first visit to Mallorca, began an intensive study of geology in 1913. His main contribution would be a geological map of the eastern mountains of Mallorca, which was published in 1932.  

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Paul Fallot, a French geologist, whose studies are the bases for modern geological interpretation of the Balearic Islands. 

  • Pyritic ammonites from the Gault of Mallorca.
  • Ammonites from the Jurassic period.
  • Palaeontological publication on Balearic ammonites by P. Fallot and H. Termier. 
  • Southern sector of the geological map of the Serra de Tramuntana, published by Paul Fallot in his doctoral thesis.

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Draft of a geological field map by Bartomeu Darder. 

  • Bartomeu Darder, a Mallorcan geologist, who started his research with Fallot and introduced the latest geological information known at that time into Mallorcan culture, prior to the civil war. 
  • Publication on the tectonics of Mallorca’s eastern region by B. Darder.
  • Field notebooks containing the observations Bartomeu Darder made over the 1920s.


Although self-taught, Guillem Colom Casasnovas occupies a fundamental role in the study of Mallorcan geology and micropalaeontology. In addition to his extensive research on these specialities, he also published works in other fields of natural science, such as zoology and biogeography.  

Some of his works have had international recognition and have been used as reference books in several universities. Of special significance among his numerous publications on microfossils are those on tintinnids, Nannoconus and foraminifers. Since 1934, when he published an article on natural science in the magazine “La nostra Terra”, he was always concerned about making that knowledge accessible to the general public, with books such as “Más allá de la Prehistoria”. 

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Guillem Colom Casasnovas, naturalist and geologist from Sóller, pioneer of micropaleontology in Spain. 

  • Photographic plates of present-day marine foraminifers by Guillem Colom. 
  • Photographs of fossil foraminifers from his work “Introducción al estudio sobre los foraminíferos fósiles”.
  • Some landsnails, endemic to the Balearic Islands, collected by G. Colom. 
  • Reproduction of an original entomological plate.
  • Chrysomelidae and Buprestidae, coleopterans collected by G. Colom between 1917 and 1930.
  • One of the most popular and successful books by Guillem Colom, an informative work on the geology of the Balearic Islands.
  • General treatise on the micropalaeontology of fossil foraminifers; one of the most worldwide famous works by G- Colom: “Introducción al estudio de los Microforaminíferos fósiles”.
  • G. Colom’s contribution to the interpretation of fossil tintinnids was decisive for the micropalaeontological knowledge of these marine infusoria. His work, “Fossil Tintinnids: Loricated Infusoria of the order of the Oligotricha”, was published in 1948 in the prestigious North American magazine “Journal of Palentology”.  


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The “Leitz” stereoscopic microscope G. Colom used for more than sixty years of research.  

  • Sediment sample, rock preparation on “thin plate” and microfossil preparation. There are 17,000 micropaleontological preparations in Colom’s collection.


The Societat d’Història Natural de les Balears (Natural History Society of the Balearic Islands) became actively involved in science during the 1950s, with a journal that was first published in 1955. This happened during the start of the growth of the tourist industry, accompanied by a gradual recovery from the economic and cultural poverty of the post-war years. However, despite the unfavourable cultural ambience at that time, the Societat d’Història Natural de les Balears has since fulfilled an important role in enriching knowledge of our botanical, zoological and geological heritage.   

It was not until 1972 that biology became a formal degree at the Universitat de les Illes Balears (University of the Balearic Islands). Concurrently, other institutions have been undertaking new ventures to improve the knowledge on Balearic nature. The most important among them are: the Museu Arqueològic de Deià (Archaeological Museum in Deià), the Federació Balear d’Espeleologia (Balearic Speleological Federation), the Grup d’Ornitologia Balear (Balearic Ornithology Group), the Museu Balear de Ciències Naturals (Natural Science Museum of the Balearic Islands) and the Institut Mediterrani d’Estudis Avançats-CSIC (Mediterranean Institute of Advanced Studies). 

Plinius 1st C. AD – SEM and X-ray diffraction, 21st century

1. There have been few studies and collections of the minerals of the Balearic Islands. Some of the first collections were formed in the 18th and 19th centuries due to the economic interest of rocks and minerals. These cabinets were enriched with pieces from other collections from around the world, which were attractive because of their spectacular nature. The mineralogical variety of the Balearic Islands is low, particularly on Mallorca, with rocks made up almost exclusively by carbonates. At the beginning of the 19th century, one of the biggest collections on the islands was that of Jaume Conrado i Berard, containing more than one hundred kinds of minerals, the majority of which came from outside the islands. The Belgian engineer and geologist Paul Bouvy, who lived on Mallorca, working for years on mining projects to extract lignite from the centre of the island, collected a large quantity of rocks and minerals, which he exchanged with other collectors of that time, including Conrado.

2. Over the last few years, the application of cutting-edge techniques on the study of speleothems from the subterranean caves of the Balearic Islands has made it possible to improve their knowledge. Recently, a team of researchers has been able to identify many kinds of minerals by studying the speleothems of these cavities using X-ray diffraction, infrared and scanning electron microscopy techniques, among others. Together with already known forms, such as aragonite, apatite and gypsum, these techniques allowed them to identify other carbonates, some of them rare, such as ankerite, dolomite, hydromagnesite or monohydrocalcite; phosphates such as ardealite, brushite and tarakanite; and silicates like montmorillonite, muscovite and quartz, as well as minerals related to hypogenic processes. 

3. Over the last few years, the dating of water-formed speleothems using radio-isotopic techniques has permitted important advances in knowledge of the formation of those cavities and the fluctuations in Mediterranean Sea level during the Quaternary period. 

Pliny 1st C. AD – SEM and X-ray diffraction, 21st century

1. During the 20th century, important didactic mineralogy collections were formed. Among them, one of the most important ones is that of La Salle school in Palma, enriched with contributions from all over the world. In 2005, this collection was deposited at the Natural Science Museum of the Balearic Islands*

* The great La Salle network, with many hundreds of schools all over the world, has an extensive network of pedagogical museums, including some devoted to natural sciences. Some of these museums (such as the La Salle in Costa Rica) have the category of national museums. For more than a century, these museums have been enriched with all kinds of specimens of animals, stuffed or preserved in different ways, as well as fossils and minerals from Spain and all over the world. This was possible thanks to the establishment of La Salle in the five continents. In Spain, the museums of Paterna (València) and Teruel are particularly important. The Palma collection is also quite significant. They are collections of great pedagogical, historical and also scientific value. 

2. During the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th, apart from lignite, there were some experimental mining operations on the Islands –including copper and galena- operations that were gradually abandoned.


1. Fossils are the remains of organisms that lived a long time ago, which allow palaeontologists to determine the age of rocks containing them.

Fossils in the Balearic Islands have been dated from the Palaeozoic period (hundreds of million years old) to the Quaternary (present age). A great variety of fossilized animals have been found. From marine animals such as the molluscs, brachiopods, sea urchins, fishes, marine mammals and others, to terrestrial organisms: plants, insects, snails, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals. 

2. In rocks of Miocene age (from 22 million to 6 million years ago), one can find fossils of diverse animal and plant groups.

3. José Vargas Ponce, in 1787, was the first to give information on the existence of fossils on Mallorca, citing “Ammon’s horns” in Puig de l’Ofre and belemnites in Santa Margalida. 

From the half of the 19th century, La Marmora, Bouvy, Haime, Hermite and Nolan collected and identified the fossils they found on their scientific trips all over the islands. 

The works by Vidal, Fallot and Darder, which increased the knowledge of Balearic fossils in the 20th century, culminated in the micropalaeontological research by Guillem Colom, in the works on the remains of fish from the Miocene by Joan Bauzá and those on Quaternary fauna of Mallorca by Joan Cuerda.


4. The ammonites or “Ammon’s horns”, as they were once called, were mentioned by the first geologists that studied the islands’ rock formations. 


5. One of the first fossil deposits described on Mallorca was found in Muleta (Sóller), dated as middle Lias, about 160 million years ago. There, Haime first described Terebratula davidsoni, from specimens collected by the botanist Paul Marès in 1850. 

6. The possible existence of nummulitic rocks on Mallorca was first mentioned by La Marmora in 1834. This hypothesis was confirmed by Haime in 1855, and some very spectacular deposits were later found in Cabrera. Almost all stages of the Eocene and Oligocene epochs were also located. 


1. Since the 18th century, when Carl Von Linnaeus established the bases of the current classification of animals, one of the main tasks of naturalists from all over the world has been the exhaustive inventory of fauna. Nowadays, almost two million animal species are known. This immense inventory work was the almost exclusive goal of the zoologists of the last century.

2. However, some groups of animals have been relatively better known for a long time because, for one reason or another, they have attracted more attention from naturalists. This is the case of the crabs, already well-known during Aristotle’s time, which are today one of the best-known zoological groups in the world.

3. In the Balearic Islands, the first reference of crabs is the one appearing in the manuscripts of Cristòfol Vilella, in the 18th century. In 1814, Joan Ramis Ramis described several species of crabs from Menorca, using the Linnaean nomenclature in our country for the first time.

4. In 1875, Francesc Barceló and Combis published a list of 30 species of crabs from the Balearic Islands. At present, more than 80 species are known in our Islands.


At the end of the Miocene epoch, when the Mediterranean was drying up, a small bovid arrived to the Balearic area. Later, the opening of the strait of Gibraltar caused the re-flooding of the basin, isolating all the animals and plants. From then on, Myotragus, which was similar to a modern goat, begun to evolve under island conditions, gradually modifying the length and stoutness of their limbs, their dentition and the location of the orbits, among others.

The lineage of the Myotragus, with 6 different species, became extinct when humans to the islands, which contributed to wiping out the youngest of the species: M. balearicus.

The best known fossil deposit containing Myotragus balearicus was discovered and studied by William Waldren’s team (Museu Arqueològic de Deià) in Cova de Muleta (Port de Sóller). The fossils from that deposit are currently housed in the Natural History Museum of the Balearic Islands. The W. Waldren collection counts with more than 1500 individuals of this bovid.

1. William Waldren (New York, 1924 – Deià, 2003)

This skeleton has been mounted with materials from the William Waldren collection of Myotragus balearicus from Cova de Muleta (Port of Sóller), housed in this museum. This collection is among the most important of the world regarding this species, given the number of specimens.

2. Skull of Myotragus batei Crusafont i Ángel, 1966 (REPLICA)

The deposit was found in 1962 by the Brother of La Salle Basilio Ángel. He extracted a skull in quite good condition and a jaw bone. The fossil was initially attributed as Myotragus balearicus but, after some debate, it was finally described as a new species in 1966, dedicated to the discoverer of the genus, Miss Dorothea Bate: Myotragus batei. That species lived during the lower Pleistocene period.

 (Replicas de M. batei courtesy of Hans Brinkerink)

3. Evolution of the incisor series and lower premolar series of Myotragus

A: M. pepgonellae; B. M. antiquus; C: M. kopperi; D: M. batei; E: M. balearicus.

Drawing taken from Alcover, J. A., Moyà, S. & Pons, 1981. “Les quimeres del passat. Els vertebrats fòssils del Plio-Quaternari de les Balears i Pitiüses”.

4. Comparison between the metapodials of Myotragus balearicus (smaller size) and a modern goat

VITRINA. BOTÀNICA (Clausius 1601 – Germoplasma bank 1991)

1. Homemade photographic camera built and made by Joan Trias Castell, a naturalist and microscopist from Sóller. Many macro-photographs were taken with this camera to illustrate works such as the Flora of Mallorca by Francesc Bonafè (Trias family collection).

2. Monocular microscope (approximately 1920). The Austrian brand Reichert (Vienna) was one of the best in the world for the construction high precision microscopes, like this one recovered from the slaughterhouse of Sóller (MBCN Collection, municipal collection)

3. The pharmacist Joan Gamundí i Ballester (Muro 1870 – Palma 1952) was one of the pioneers in the study of diatoms  -microscopic algae living in all aquatic, marine and continental environments that are also found fossilised in rocks. Diatoms have a siliceous shell and show a fabulous morphological diversity. Gamundí carried out many studies all over Spain. He was the director of the Palma municipal laboratory, he founded and ran the official Association of Pharmacists on the Balearic Islands and he was co-founder of the Natural History Society of the Balearic Islands. 

Pleurosigma sp.

Examples of marine diatoms of the genus Pleurosigma, in a microscope preparation made by Joan Gamundí i Ballester. 

Preparation: MBCN Colom Collection. Photo: Ll. Garcia.

4. Photographs by Joan Trias i Castell.

5. Field presses like this one, which belonged to the naturalist Pere Palau, were used by botanists on their trips to transport plants they had collected already in slightly compressed form, to ensure that all the structures were preserved while saving space. 

6. The collection, preservation and archiving of plants for botanical study have not changed much since the time of Linnaeus, in the 18th century, and even long before, when in 1601, Clausius mentions the “Estepa Joana” (Hypericum balearicum), an endemic plant to the Balearic Islands. Nowadays, field botanists still use the same techniques based on pressing the samples collected in the field and subsequently preserving them in archived collections. This is how the first plant studies were carried out in the Balearic Islands, and it is how collections are still made in tropical forests.

In the 21st century, dry plant collections are still essential for documenting botanical species and the places where they live with. Their genetic material is also preserved in the so-called germoplasm banks, together with tissues and organs used in ultramicroscopic or molecular biology studies.  

During the 20th century, photography was another very efficient way of documenting and publicising plant biodiversity. 

7. Linnaeus box or Dillenius box to collect field samples of complete, fresh plants to be subsequently prepared in the cabinet. The invention is attributed to both the botanists Joan Jacob Dillenius (1684-1747) and Carl von Linnaeus (1707-1778).