Annelise Folie has been the curator of the palaeontology collections since 2007, and since the end of 2016 she's curating (ad interim) the vetebrate collections. “I belong to the Jurassic Park generation,” says Annelise. Steven Spielberg’s gargantuan 1993 production caught the imagination many young people in the nineties. “That passion was still with me when I left school at 18, which is why I went to study geology at Namur and Brussels.” In 2001, Annelise then had the opportunity to join the RBINS as a scientific collaborator to complete her Master’s thesis. She then continued at the RBINS to complete her PhD, which she presented in 2006. 

Palaeontologist and curator Annelise Folie

Since 2001, Annelise has specialised in palaeoherpetology, more specifically in the study of fossil lizards, snakes, frogs and salamanders. She was first given the opportunity to study specimens from the Maastrichtian era (Upper Cretaceous period) from Transylvania (Romania). She was then able to study specimens from the Lower Palaeocene era from Belgium and studied the impact of the Cretaceous-Palaeogene extinction on European herpetological fauna. Annelise is currently studying fauna from the end of the Cretaceous era to the Oligocene period (between 66 and 34 million years ago). 

At first sight, the ‘herpeto-things’, as Annelise and her colleagues like to call them, seem insignificant, but this is largely because they are not well known. At the end of 2013, in a scientific article published in the journal Geologica Belgica, Annelise created a new family of amphisbaenians, based on specimens discovered in Belgium from the Lower Palaeocene era (around 62 million years ago). Amphisbaenians are legless lizards whose head and tail look similar. When threatened, they raise both extremities of their body at the same time, so that the predator does not know which end to attack. Annelise says “These are really fascinating animals. The oldest known member of this group has 12 teeth per jaw, while modern amphisbaenians only have 5 or 9.”

Left: scolecophidien vertebrate found in Hainin (Belgium). Right: Scolecophidien around a thumb

In 2015, Annelise is preparing a new article, this time on scolecophidians. Behind this bizarre name is a very primitive micro-snake, barely 10 cm long, which looks and lives like an earthworm. Here too, the most ancient example is Belgian. 


Annelise’s dual role (managing the palaeontology collections and palaeoherpetology research) gives her the opportunity to accompany many international expeditions when excavations are organised by her palaeomammologist colleagues. She has therefore been able to work in Transylvania (Romania), Wyoming, China and India. “Each time, it’s a unique and enriching experience from a human perspective. We can go where tourists can’t and to get to know these regions in depth. It is a bit like visiting the archives of the Institute.” 

Curator Annelise Folie showing the new repositories
Expert in moving

From 2003 to 2009, the Janlet wing (the palaeontology building), which now contains the Dinosaurs Gallery, the Evolution Gallery, and a large part of the palaeontology collections, underwent significant building work. During this period, around 16,000 trays of specimens were transferred to other locations in order to protect them. In 2007, one of the first missions given to Annelise as curator of the collections was to organise and coordinate the transfer of these 16,000 trays (around 1,150 m3) into five, huge, newly constructed Compactus units in the basement of the Janlet wing. This was no easy task. The work had to synchronised with the speed of the building works and faced numerous technical problems.

On arrival, the trays could not all be stored immediately in their definitive place. This is why internal movements are still done every year with the help of a moving firm or interns in order to arrange the trays according to a new layout plan for the collections. 


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