The research and reference collection of skulls and skeletal parts and of formalin-preserved organs has been building up since the founding of the IZW in its modern form in 1992. Most specimens were acquired during routine post mortem examinations conducted by the pathologists of the IZW and deep-frozen for future processing. Several of them provided the basis for scientific investigations in the field of evolutionary morphology. The actual stock comprises about 220 species. Links to the pathological anatomical reference collection (PARS) of the Leibniz-IZW exist as individuals may be represented not only by skeletal parts but also by tissue samples and post mortem diagnosis.
Research projects in evolutionary morphology at the IZW attempt to integrate comparative anatomical, physiological and behavioural results. Graphic reconstructions by hand, virtual 3D reconstructions on the basis of computed tomographic (CT) scans, video single frame analysis, digital synthetic reconstructions and the analysis of original acoustic recordings are integrated to achieve a comprehensive synthesis of results. A major requisite in this respect is a good collection of carefully preserved skeletal specimens.
In addition to their use in research, specimens, photos, graphic reconstructions and CT-based virtual 3D reconstructions of specimens are regularly used for academic teaching. Last but not least, the Leibniz-IZW morphological collection is a documentation of one aspect of biodiversity among vertebrates and it lively demonstrates how a basic pattern can become multiply transformed in the course of evolution.