The collection of fossil molluscs at the Natural History Museum is among the world’s most systematically, stratigraphically and geographically comprehensive. It includes more than 20,000 type and figured specimens.
Most molluscs have calcareous shells with excellent preservation potential. As a consequence the mollusc collection is one of the largest in the Museum, with more than 5,000,000 specimens.
The collection is enhanced by two specialist reference libraries:
Molluscs are abundant in a wide range of marine, freshwater and terrestrial environments and are second only to arthropods as the most species-rich animal phylum.
The fossil record reveals molluscs to have been systematically diverse and commonly occurring throughout much of their 530 million year history. For example ammonites, evolve particularly rapidly and can be used for correlating and dating rocks.
Many groups are also excellent indicators of past environmental conditions.
Our collection contains specimens belonging to the seven shell-bearing molluscan classes from across their entire geological range:
The collections also include the following group of probable molluscan affinity:
and conical-shelled Problematica (fossils of uncertain affinity) such as:
Two living classes of worm-like molluscs, the 'aplacophoran' Solenogastres and Caudofoveata lack a shell or shell plates and have yet to be found as fossils.
The collection has a worldwide scope including Antarctica and oceanic islands. In addition to extensive British holdings, Western European countries and former British colonies are particularly well represented.
The Museum cares for many important collections linked to major characters in the history of palaeontology. Find out some of the highlights featuring fossil molluscs.
Discover what facilities and resources are available in the Palaeontology Department for research visitors to the benthic mollusc and minor group collections, or the cephalopod collection.
The fossil mollusc collection comprises three major groups of material:
Most of these groups are arranged systematically using traditional or current classifications. The Bivalvia, Cephalopoda and Minor groups are arranged according to the Treatise on Invertebrate Paleontology.
In addition to the systematically arranged material we have the following collections:
Most of the collection is well provenanced:
Type specimens are indicated by red or green spots; benthic molluscs are in pink (type) or green (figured) boxes.
The fossil mollusc collection is based across 3 locations in London: