The Mollusk Collection

Our mollusk collection is the tenth largest in North America with more than 2 million specimens.

The 250,000 lots represent more than 18,000 species. Worldwide in scope and covering all seven living classes of mollusks, our holdings include marine Gastropoda (50%), land and freshwater Gastropoda (25%), marine Bivalvia (15%), and freshwater Bivalvia (5%).

The museum’s mollusk collection is primarily dry shells, with some alcohol preserved cephalopod specimens. Most specimens are recent; however, there is some Cenozoic fossil material. Our type collection contains more than 1,200 lots. Type catalogs listing all molluscan type specimens (except Pulmonata) are available in Nemouria issues 36 and 41. The mollusk collection is digitized on iDigBio and InvertEBase. The collection continues to grow through research activities of staff and donations of scientifically significant specimens.

Elizabeth Shea, Ph.D.
Director of Collections and Curator of Mollusks
Alex Kittle
Senior Collections Manager of Mollusks

What is a mollusk?

In general, mollusks are soft bodied animals living in many different environments: from the depths of the oceans to the heat of the desert, and from small backyard ponds to the tops of mountains. They are one of the most diverse groups of organisms on the planet.

The Phylum Mollusca is estimated to include 100,000 species. The study of mollusks is called malacology (mal-uh-col-oh-gee) which means “the study of animals with soft bodies.”

The seven living classes of mollusks are Aplacophora, Bivalva, Cephalopoda, Gastropoda, Monoplacophora, Polyplacophora and Scaphopoda. All seven classes are represented in the scientific collections.