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Established in 1938, the Division of Invertebrates is in charge of all invertebrate groups except insects and other non-marine arthropods. The first curator of this Division was Fritz Haas, formerly of the Senckenberg Museum in Frankfurt, Germany. Haas (1938 - 1969) and his successor Alan Solem (1957 - 1990) built massive mollusk collections, particularly strong in unionid bivalves and terrestrial snails, reflecting their respective research interests. Current curators Rüdiger Bieler (1990 -) and Janet Voight (1990 -) focus their research and collection-building on marine molluscan groups. The varied curatorial research interests, the collecting efforts of past and present collections managers (e.g., John Slapcinsky and Jochen Gerber), and acquisitions of private collections and "orphan collections".

Mollusk Collection

At present the Division of Invertebrates, which began with a collection of 16,000 lots, manages ca. 340,000 cataloged mollusk lots, with approximately 4.5 million specimens. Our molluscan collection now ranks among the top three or four in North America.

Systematic Coverage. Specimens of 62% of the currently recognized molluscan families are present in the collection, with 80% of the shelled molluscan families represented. Recent concentration on marine "micro-mollusks" and deep-sea taxa has further increased our holdings. Approximately 55% of our collection is comprised of terrestrial, 30% of marine and 15% of freshwater taxa. In total, approximately 36,000 molluscan taxa are represented, about two thirds of which are terrestrial.

Holdings of terrestrial gastropods (land snails and slugs) contain approximately 2.5 million specimens in about 165,000 lots and represent roughly 20,000 taxa. This collection is one of the most comprehensive in the world and an internationally recognized resource with one of the most diverse holdings of modern field collections of land snails. The large holdings of eastern U.S. species, in particular of the Leslie Hubricht collection, comprise a unique resource for ecological, environmental, systematic and other studies.

The freshwater mollusks are estimated to number 45,000 lots (about two-thirds gastropods and one-third bivalves). The freshwater snails of eastern North America are well represented in the collection, providing an excellent resource for systematic and ecological studies. Other geographic areas covered by these collections are Southeast Asia and the Philippines, South America and Europe. The bulk of the freshwater bivalves are composed of an outstanding unionid collection assembled by Dr. Fritz Haas (curator 1938-1958). The majority of endangered species in the U.S. are unionids and species of this group are often sensitive environmental indicators. The area of geographic strength in our freshwater bivalves is North America.

Most historical marine material, approximately 90,000 lots, was received as part of formed collections or as voucher material. There is a good synoptic representation of the extant marine mollusks and a growing, taxonomically diverse collection of small-shelled "micro" mollusks. Geographic coverage is world-wide with strengths in Florida and the Caribbean. The collection contains considerable historically important marine material acquired in several major private collections (48 KB) and material that is resulting from field work by curators.

Geographic Coverage. The marine mollusk collection has a worldwide coverage with particular strengths in Florida and the Caribbean, as well as in deep-sea and hot-vent environments. Within the terrestrial and freshwater molluscan collections there is strong representation from the Nearctic, Neotropical, Pacific Island, Australian and European regions. Through the field collections of former Curator A. Solem, The Field Museum's holdings of land snails from the Pacific Islands and especially from Australia are among the most comprehensive in the world. Acquisition of several important collections, in particular the Leslie Hubricht Collection in 1990, made this among the world's premier collections of terrestrial mollusks.

Series per Geographical Area

Taxa per Geographical Area

Among the unique components of the Invertebrate Collection are specimens collected by submersibles at sea floor hydrothermal vents in the east Pacific Ocean. Specimens from vents on the Juan de Fuca Ridge, Gorda Ridge, and from the East Pacific Rise, are represented.

Fluid-Preserved Specimens. Our growing collection of alcohol-preserved specimens currently comprises approximately 30,700 series and 5,400 taxa. There are strong holdings of terrestrial snails from North America, Australia, Pacific Islands and Europe, as well as marine mollusks from the tropical West Atlantic Ocean and from deep-sea habitats in the Northeast Pacific Ocean.

Type Collection. The molluscan type collection contains representatives of several thousand nominal taxa. Type designations by just three Field Museum-associated authors, Haas, Hubricht and Solem, account for over 500 species. Additional type material of species described as early as 1860 entered the collection through the accessions of various formed collections.

Auxiliary Collections. The Field Museum’s Division of Invertebrates houses several auxiliary collections: book and serial libraries; a reprint collection of invertebrate scientific literature (ca. 10,000 titles); a collection of malacological newsletters; gastropod radulae mounted on Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) stubs; and more than 6,500 SEM photographs and negatives of molluscan feeding apparatuses and shell microstructures. Frozen specimens and other material especially preserved for molecular studies and fine-anatomical research are more recent additions to our auxiliary collections.

Non-Molluscan Invertebrates

The Division of Invertebrates currently holds approximately 14,500 lots (= specimen series) of non-mollusk invertebrates. Crustaceans comprise over 40% of this material. Although the core of these holdings are collections acquired by The Field Museum from the 1893 Columbian Exposition, additions have come via collecting efforts with primary focus on other groups and the deposit of voucher material. In recent years, deep-sea invertebrates collected by submersible became a focus of our non-mollusk holdings. Type specimens constitute 138 lots, representing 57 nominal species in five phyla.

Collection Database. Support from the U.S. National Science Foundation allowed for massive data-capture efforts, beginning with the computerization of Leslie Hubricht's 43,000-series collection of North American land snails. A second NSF-supported project, retrospective data capture of 100,000 series of land snail holdings, is now complete. Each of the more than 143,000 series was rehoused and relabeled in archival quality material. The Field Museum provides access to the world's largest "virtual" land snail collection (freshwater and most marine mollusks and the non-molluscan specimens are yet to be fully databased).

    jgerber's picture
    Jochen Gerber
    Collections Manager III
    Gantz Family Collections Center

Invertebrates Collections

Hydrothermal Vent Invertebrate Collection

Hydrothermal vents are some of the planet's most extreme habitats. Specimens from these habitats may be vital to studies of relationships, biogeography, endemicity and deep-sea diversity, but only if the information on their existence is made available. That is the goal of making this collection available online.

Invertebrates Collection

The collections currently exceeds 340,000 catalogued lots (= specimen series) with continuing growth. Research and collecting traditionally focused on the phylum Mollusca with more than 328,000 cataloged lots. Non-mollusk invertebrates are represented by ca. 14,500 cataloged lots with the Arthropoda (ca. 50%), Annelida (20 %), Echinodermata (8 %), Cnidaria (7%) and Porifera (5 %) best represented.

Invertebrates from Wood Falls

Primarily, this searchable dataset contains data from an experiment designed to document members of the wood fall fauna from the deep North Pacific Ocean, in which wood was experimentally deployed by the ROV's Jason and Tiburon in 2002, and recovered after 10 months (July 2003 by the ROV Jason II) and after 24 months (by the Deep Submergence Vehicle, Alvin). The deployments were made at Escanaba Trough, Gorda Ridge, Endeavour Segment, Axial Volcano and several sites on Cascadia Basin at depths of from 1550 to 3250 m.

Malacological Journals and Newsletters

Molluscan journals began in the 1770s and many hundreds of such specialized serials have been introduced since. Tracking the often short-lived runs and frequent name changes can be challenging.  Catalog and database are provided to facilitate access to this complex body of literature.  [For searches, go to "Collection Search: Search Database," below]    

Mollusk Collection

At present the Division of Invertebrates, which began in 1938 with a collection of 16,000 lots, manages more than 328,000 cataloged mollusk lots, with approximately 4.5 million specimens. Our molluscan collection now ranks among the top three or four in North America.

Non-Molluscan Invertebrate Collection

The Division of Invertebrates currently holds approximately 14,700 cataloged lots (= specimen series) of non-mollusk invertebrates. The best-represented groups among these are the Arthropoda (ca. 50%), Annelida (20 %), Echinodermata (8 %), Cnidaria (7%) and Porifera (5 %). The core of the holdings are collections acquired by The Field Museum from the 1893 Columbian Exposition. Additions to these collections have come via collecting efforts with primary focus on other groups and the deposit of voucher material.