Annelida and free-living worms

An Annelida from underneath with black background

The Annelida collection, including Echiura, Sipuncula and free-living nematode worms, contains a wealth of important and historic material, including the most comprehensive collection of Siboglinidae (beard worms) in the world.  Our collection of Hirudinea (leeches) is also of worldwide significance.

The Polychaete collection has a number of strengths including Antarctic material comprising the Australian and New Zealand Antarctic Research Expedition (B.A.N.Z.A.R.E.) (1929-1930) and recent biopearl expedition (2000s). We also hold HMS Discovery investigation collections, particularly from 1920’s to 1950’s.

The Oligochaete collection is higly regarded, largely from the efforts of in-house specialists Reginald Sims and Ed Easton.

The Southeast Asian collection is excellent, in particular for the family Megascolecidae.

Other highlights include the type series from the Carpathian mountains from Victor Pop, as well as South African material from Danuta Plisko and Grace Pickford.

Collection strengths

  • Antarctic material (recent and historic)
  • Southeast Asian and UK oligochaetes
  • Siboglinidae
  • Hirudinea (leeches)

Breakdown by phylum

  • Annelida (Polychaetes, Oligochaetes, Hirudinea): 100,000 (wet, dry, slides)
  • Free-living Nematoda: 23,000 (wet and slides)
  • Sipuncula (peanut worms): 1,400 (wet, slides)
  • Echiura: 160 (wet)


  • HMS Discovery collection (1925-1950s)
  • HMS Challenger (global oceanographic mission 1872-1876)
  • Great Barrier Reef Lowe Isles Expedition (1928-1929)
  • John Murray Arabian Sea Expedition (1933-1934)
  • Australian and New Zealand Antarctic Research Expedition (B.A.N.Z.A.R.E.) (1929-1930)

Looking for a specimen?

This collection is being digitised


Emma Sherlock

If you would like to use any specimens for research, please get in touch

Principal Curator in Charge, Invertebrates (non-insects)

Lauren Hughes

If you would like to use any specimens for research, please get in touch


Find out why our 80 million specimens are a globally important resource for scientific reference and research.

Accessing the collections

Scientists and collections management specialists can visit the collections and borrow specimens for research.

Collections management

Our duty is to provide a safe and secure environment for all of our collections.

Collections on the move

We have set out on an ambitious programme to develop a new science and digitisation centre. As we prepare for the move, access to some collections will be affected. 

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