Fire destroys rare snake collection

A fire in Brazil has destroyed what may have been the world's largest scientific collection of dead snakes, spiders and scorpions, which served as the main source for research on many species.

Members of the Instituto Butantan said the nearly 100-year-old collection lost in the fire included almost 80,000 snakes and several thousand specimens of spiders and scorpions.

The specimens were used to study evolution and how to avert extinctions, said institute director Otavio Mercadante. "The entire collection was lost, the biggest collection of snakes in the world," curator Francisco Franco said. "It's a loss to humanity."

The institute's live animals were kept in a separate building. The fire did not harm any humans or live animals.

Many of the animals are used in the production of vaccines and biopharmaceuticals, some derived from venom.