Florida Museum of Natural History

History

The mollusk collection was initiated through the efforts of T. van Hyning, the first director of the museum, and was small and composed mostly of local taxa until 1965. Fred G. Thompson joined the museum faculty in 1966. He has served as curator of Malacology since. In 1973, the FLMNH mollusk collection consisted of 22,174 catalogued lots and ranked 19th in the US (Solem, 1975). The collection has grown rapidly since, through numerous field surveys and acquisition of relinquished collections. Gustav Paulay joined the division in 2000 as Marine Malacologist. Since his hire Malacology has also hosted a growing collection of non-molluscan marine invertebrates. Malacology is devoted to the study of mollusks, the second largest phylum of animals in terms of described species. About 100,000 species of mollusks are known, and FLMNH holds over 30,000 species among 400,000 lots of specimens. Over 300,000 lots are now databased and accessible online. The collection is among the five largest in the US, and one of the most rapidly growing. It is second largest mollusk collection in the world in online accessibility.

Repartition of lots by biogeographic region

FLMNH is the largest natural history museum in the southeastern US and collections are especially strong in regional taxa. Malacology has one of the largest collections of terrestrial and freshwater mollusks from the southeastern US. Overall marine mollusks comprise 38% of catalogued holdings, freshwater species make up 18%, and terrestrial taxa 44%. Gastropods comprise 83%, bivalves 16%, while all other mollusk classes combined <1% of the collection. Three quarters of the collection is from the New World, while 18% is from tropical Australasia and surrounding Pacific and Indian Ocean islands (figure 1). The mollusk collection has unique strengths in land, freshwater and marine mollusks. The FLMNH has the largest land snail collection in the world from Hispaniola, Mexico-Central America, Pakistan and Thailand, and also has especially large holdings from the southeastern United States, West Indies, Andean South America, Madagascar, SE Asia, and Oceania. Freshwater mollusk collections are strong for the southeastern United States, Mexico, Central America, Andean South America, and the Philippines. Large subtropical and tropical West Atlantic and Indo-West Pacific holdings characterize the marine collection, and tropical marine collections are undergoing rapid growth. These strengths reflect a former regional focus of the museum and research focus of the curators: on terrestrial and freshwater mollusks of Middle America and Southeast Asia, and on tropical marine mollusks, respectively.