Mollusca collections

image of colourful land snail shells with black background

The Mollusca collection is one of the most comprehensive and significant in the world, constantly in demand by the malacological research community. The type collection is the most scientifically important of its kind.

The non-marine (terrestrial and freshwater) gastropod and bivalve molluscs collections are the most geographically diverse and historically important in the world, spanning the late 18th to the mid-20th centuries.

With over 3,500 contributors, the mollusc collections have strong holdings of European, Eastern and Southern African, Indian, Southeast Asian (especially Burma) and Australian material. Recent comprehensive land snail collections have been made in Vietnam and Sri Lanka.

Early acquisitions were mollusca collections donated from the Royal Society, the Rev. Clayton Mordaunt Cracherode, the Earl of Tankerville, Joseph Banks and William John Broderip. These resulted in the bequest of specimens from the Duchess of Portland, the Duke of Calonne and material from Captain James Cook’s voyages to the South and North Pacific.



Type specimens


Collection strengths

  • Deep-sea material.
  • Material from Europe, Indo-Pacific, Australia, South Africa, Persian Gulf, Red Sea, India and the Caribbean.
  • Land snail collections from India and Southeast Asia.

Breakdown of specimens by class

  • Non-marine Gastropoda: 3,000,000 (wet, dry)
  • Marine Gastropoda 2,312,500 (wet, dry)
  • Bivalvia: 1,500,000 (wet, dry)
  • Cephalopoda: 56,000 (wet, dry)
  • Small classes (Polyplacophora, Scaphopoda, Monoplacophora, Aplacophora): 110,000 (wet, dry)

Important historical collections

  • Hugh Cuming collection (~83,000 specimens, purchased 1866)
  • Alcide d.Orbigny collection (South America, Cuba, Canary Islands)
  • Robert and Vernon McAndrew collections
  • William Thomas and Henry Francis Blanford collections
  • Henry Haversham Godwin-Austen collection
  • Sir Hans Sloane collection
  • Joseph Banks collection (including specimens collected on HMS Endeavour)
  • Rev. Clayton Mordaunt Cracherode collection (including shells collected on Cook's voyages)
  • William John Broderip collection
  • Thomas Pennant collection (17th century United Kingdom)
  • Ronald Winckworth collection (Indian Ocean)

Expedition material

  • HMS Challenger (global oceanographic mission 1872-1876)
  • HMS Porcupine (UK waters 1868-1870)
  • HMS Lightning (UK waters 1868-1870)
  • HMS Discovery (Antarctic Investigations 1925-1928)

Looking for a specimen?

This collection is being digitised

Curator (non-marine Gastropoda, Cephalopoda)

Jon Ablett

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

Curator (marine Gastropoda & Mollusca historical collections)

Andreia Salvador

Curator (Bivalvia, Scaphopoda, Polyplacophora, small molluscan classes)

Dr Tom S. White

Specialist reference library

The Mollusca library has over 50,000 volumes of dedicated literature.

Collections on the move

Access to some collections will be affected as we prepare for the move to our new collections, science and digitisation centre.

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.