Jurassica Museum

Research projects


The JURASSICA Museum hosts an academic unit in geosciences associated to the Department of Geosciences of the University of Fribourg. This academic unit is composed of two research groups, on focussing on the Cenozoic  (from -65 Ma to present) and one focussing on the Mesozoic (from -252 to -65 Ma). The main research topics developed by the scientific team of the JURASSICA Museum are listed below.

De nombreux spécimens de grands mammifères provenant du Cénozoïque d’Europe sont mal connu. La révision des assemblages européens contribuera de manière significative à la compréhension de la diversité et des patrons évolutifs des mammifères d’Europe de l’ouest durant le Cénozoïque. Cet axe de recherche vise à reconstruire l’évolution des paléoécosystèmes terrestres en Europe de l’ouest durant le Cénozoïque, sous l’angle des liens entre changements globaux et locaux/régionaux, en utilisant les assemblages de mammifères provenant de sept intervalles clés : (1) l’endémisme européen à l’Éocène ; (2) la Grande Coupure et le tout début de l’Oligocène ; (3) le renouvellement faunique du Rupélien moyen ; (4) la transition Oligocène-Miocène ; (5) le « Proboscidean Datum Event » ; (6) l' »Hipparion Datum Event » ; (7) la mégafaune de la fin du Pléistocène.

Responsable : PD Dr Damien Becker

Among mammals, rodents are today the most species-rich order, with almost half of the mammal species known today. Among rodents, some families are very diversified such as cricetids (family of hamsters) and Murids (family of mice) which comprise about 2/3 of all rodent species. This impressive diversification of extant rodents is not only illustrated by the high number of species but also by their ecological, anatomical and physiological diversity, together with a surprising adaptation to almost all living environments. The fossil record shows that this diversification occurred relatively fat by comparison of other groups of mammals, but the reasons of such diversification in rodents remains poorly understood.

This project aims at studying and comparing evolutionary histories of different small mammals clades, including rodents, in order to identify the controling factors of this diversification. To do so, the project focusses of the Paleogene and Neogene periods (especially between -40 and -10 million years) and includes fossil localities distributed all over the eurasian continent. Different approaches, phylogenetic, macroecologic and paléobiogeographic are used to follow the evolution of small mammals at broad temporal and spatial scales. A peculiar attention is paied to the past environment and past climates which often proove to be major influencing factors over evolution and biodiversity of small mammals.

PI: Dr Olivier Maridet

The main objective of my studies will be amphibian and reptile (mainly) Neogene faunas from Western Eurasia (Paratethys region), with emphasis on the Swiss Molasse Basin record. The new data on freshwater fishes, amphibians and reptiles will be used for reconstruction of the faunal assemblages, palaeobiogeographic analysis of different amphibian and reptile groups with higher regional resolution. Using the method of bioclimatic analysis of the herpetofauna, the palaeoprecitation values for the localities can be estimates, the temporal and spatial trends of the Neogene humidity evolution in Western Eurasia can be reconstructed.

PI: Dr Davit Vasilyan

The Mesozoic sedimentary rocks that form the Jura Mountains regularly yield the remains of the vertebrates (fish, turtles, crocodiles, ichthyosaures, pterosaurs, dinosaurs) that populated the coastal and terrestrial environments of the period. The construction of the Transjurane motorway in the Canton of Jura and the numerous discoveries that it permitted notably in the layers of the Late Jurassic renewed the interest to study these assemblages. Understanding the history of these vertebrate communities through the Mesozoic will provide a new perspective on the evolution of the regional paleoecosystems and on the position of the Jura in the paleobiogeographical context of the time period.

PI: Dr Jérémy Anquetin

Turtles and crocodylians are often perceived as relicts from the past. Their morphology appears to have little changed in the last 200 million years. From a paleontological point of view, turtles and crocodylomorphs appear as diverse groups with a complex evolutionary history. However, many aspects of the evolutionary history of these groups remain unknown. The present project funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) proposes to assemble a comprehensive database to study morphological evolution in modern and fossil turtles (skull, mandible, and shell) and crocodylomorphs (skull and mandible) using 3D geometric morphometrics and multivariate statistical tools. Disparity through time and patterns of morphological integration and modularity will be studied in parallel in order to understand which factors shaped morphological evolution in these groups since the Late Triassic.

PI: Dr Jérémy Anquetin

Stratigraphy is the study of sedimentological layers based on their aspect on the field, their nature (calcareous, marly, etc.), and their fossiliferous content (macro- and microfossils). At the regional scale, the accessible exposures mainly represent two stratigraphical levels: the Oxfordian in the North of the Ajoie region and the Kimmeridgian in the area between Porrentruy and Courtedoux. The concerned lithostratigraphical units extend from the St-Ursanne Formation (lower to middle Oxfordian) at the base to the Reuchenette Formation (lower to upper Kimmeridgian). The field data are mostly extracted from quarries and natural exposures, but also from the construction works of the A16 motorway and numerous boreholes drilled by private geological offices along its track. These rich data provide precious information on the local stratigraphy and the correlation of the different geological levels.

PI: Gaël Comment


The snake's head fritillary or chess flower is a protected species in Switzerland, in Jura and Neuchâtel Cantons. This species is currently endangered in Jura Canton. In order to maintain populations of this flower, reintroductions are necessary along the Doub river where the fritillary is still present or previously occurred.

Since 2007, the Botanical Garden of JURASSICA is involved in the conservation program of the snake's head fritillary (Fritillaria meleagris) and actively participate to its reintroduction on the Doub river banks. New specimens are grown at the Botanical Garden with seeds collected in the Neuchâtel Canton. When successfully developed, specimens are then reintroduced in historical sites of the Jura Canton.

The JURASSICA Museum preserves in his collections a herbarium composed of more than 35 000 sheets, 80% of them being of swiss origin. So far, most of the data of these herbarium are heterogeneous and difficult to access. The present project aims at making all data easily available to scientists and broad public alike. All data of the herbarium will be transfered to the Center for Swis Floristic Network (CRSF) and to the Stuy Group for Jura and Bern-Jura Flora. Finally, all data will be intergrated into national and international databases, after update and standardization.


Since 2006, Ladislas Reser, associate researcher at the JURASSICA Museum and former curator of the entomology department at the Natur-Museums Luzern, conducts an exhaustive study of the night butterflies of the Jura Canton. This study is financially supported by the CSCF (Swiss center for faunas cartography, Neuchâtel). Between 2006 and 2011, sampling have been made in eight sites located in Ajoie and four sites in the Franches-Montagnes. Since 2011, six additional sites are studied with a frequence of sampling of 3 nights per months. Specimens are housed in the JURASSICA Museum and inventories are entered in the database of the CSCF. This collection is one of the most important reference collection of night butterflies in Switzerland. The results of this study have been publisches on a regular basis in « Lepidopterologische Mitteilungen aus Luzern » since 2006.

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