Fossil echinoderm collection (Echinodermata)

Fossil echinoderms are numerous, due in part to the fantastic preservation potential of the calcite plates that form their skeletons. They are found in marine sediments from around the globe and throughout the Phanerozoic.

This diversity and abundance is reflected in the Natural History Museum’s large, world-class collection.

With some 200,000 specimens, including over 1,800 type and figured specimens, the Museum’s fossil echinoderm collection contains a wide representative of all the classes of echinoderms.

Collection strengths:

  • Palaeozoic and Mesozoic asterozoans
  • Mesozoic echinoids
  • Palaeozoic crinoids
  • Probably the best collection of carpoids (Homalozoa) in the world
  • Good collections of blastoids and cystoids

Details

Geological range:

The full geological range of each group is represented in our collection:

  • Asterozoa (Cambrian to Recent)
  • Blastoidea (Cambrian to Permian)
  • Crinoidea (Cambrian to Recent)
  • Cystoids (Ordovician to Devonian)
  • Echinozoa (Cambrian to Recent)
  • Homolozoa including the carpoids (Cambrian to Carboniferous)
Geographical range:

The collection is representative of all continents.

Collections management and curation

Arrangement:

The fossil echinoderm collection is divided into taxonomic groups:

  • echinoids (Echinoidea)
  • asterozoans (Asterozoa)
  • crinoids (Crinoidea)
  • blastoids (Blastoidea)
  • cystoids (Cystoidea)
  • carpoids (Homalozoa)

Each group is then further subdivided according to:

  1. origin: British or foreign
  2. geographical region and/or taxonomy

Several collections are retained together according to collector or research publication although the latter will be reintegrated into the collections.

Oversized collections are usually housed in larger drawers near the rest of the relevant part of the collection.

In addition to fossils, the collection includes:

  • latex casts, which are commonly associated with the relevant fossils
  • models
  • non-fossilised examples of extant echinoderms
Storage:
  • Content is kept in drawer units.
  • Specimens are
    • generally boxed
    • sometimes stored in tubes or slides
  • Some older specimens are attached to cards
Labels:

Each drawer has a label which identifies the content to familial, generic and often specific level.

Most of the collection is well provenanced:

  • When the content is historic, the associated person is identified.
  • Original labels are often retained with the specimens.

Figured specimens are indicated by green spots, types by red, with which sort (holotype, etc) usually clearly marked.

Location

The fossil echinoderm collection is based across 3 locations in London:

  • Most is stored within the Palaeontology Department at South Kensington.
  • A small collection of echinoderms is housed in expansion storage at Wandsworth.
  • Some specimens are on display at the Natural History Museum in the Earth Lab and in the Fossils from Britain gallery.