What is a fin whale doing in Salsomaggiore Terme?

It was the summer of 1985 and palaeontologist Raffaele Quarantelli had just found a strange fossil, much larger than those that he and the local palaeontological group had found to date in the Stirone riverbed. What is a fin whale doing in Salsomaggiore Terme? Examination of the skeleton revealed that it wasn’t just any fin whale. It appears to have lived in the Miocene period, a geological era dating from approximately 23 to 5 million years ago and could be between 11.6 and 7.2 million years old. Definitely not something that they had ever seen before.

After quite a bit of research, in 2010 the fossil was acknowledged by the international scientific community with the name of “Plesiobalaenoptera quarantellii”. Sound familiar? Of course it does! It was named after Raffaele himself.

The MuMAB safeguards the region’s biodiversity and Giorgia, the first and only Plesiobalaenoptera quarantellii discovered in the world.

Raffaele dedicated the discovery of the first Plesiobalaenoptera quarantellii to Giorgia, his niece, and donated his collection of fossils to the city of Salsomaggiore Terme.

This is how the museum started out. A museum dedicated to the ancient sea that once covered this area, to the Stirone River, and to the hidden treasure which enthusiasts and academics like Raffaele and the Palaeontological Group of Salsomaggiore have given to all of us. Today its collection of fossils is considered to be one of the most important in existence regarding the geological evolution of the Po River Basin.

Since 5 September 2020, the MuMAB has been located in the Podere Millepioppi, within the Stirone and Piacenziano Regional Park, which is managed by the Parchi del Ducato management authority. The museum was born in the municipality of Salsomaggiore Terme in the province of Parma. The Podere Millepioppi is a rural area that was confiscated from an organised crime ring. The municipality entrusted it to the Park with the objective of establishing new headquarters for the offices and designing natural and cultural spaces that are open to the public.

In addition to the collection of fossils from the ancient Po Sea, the museum also provides a look at our region’s biodiversity. Because what was, what is, and what will be are all very closely connected. Everything around us changes: life evolves, as do environments, habitats, and living species.

It was Sergio Tralongo (park director from 1999 to 2016 and prematurely deceased in 2019) who grasped the importance of biodiversity and first began revitalising the Podere Millepioppi, and it is to him that the new visitors’ centre is dedicated.

“When we talk about biodiversity it’s not only because of the beauty of the fauna or because of its personal interest to naturalists. We’re talking about something that has a direct impact on our health.”

Sergio Tralongo

The MuMAB is involved in cataloguing and studying fossils and the natural heritage. It also oversees ongoing biodiversity conservation initiatives. Together with our naturalists, we preserve flora and fauna because biodiversity affects all of us. The value of diversity lies in all of its various expressions, this is what makes it beautiful.

At the MuMAB everyone is welcome!