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shells in malacology collection research and collections specimens

Malacology is the study of mollusks (snails, clams, octopods, etc.).

The Malacology Department promotes the scientific study, conservation, and acquisition of extant mollusk species including gastropods (marine, terrestrial, and freshwater snails and slugs), bivalves (marine and freshwater clams), cephalopods (octopus, squid, cuttlefish, and nautilus), polyplacophorans (chitons), scaphopods (tusk shells), aplacophorans (wormlike mollusks), and monoplacophorans (‘primitive’ limpetlike snails). The collection is worldwide in scope with an emphasis on the eastern Pacific Ocean (arctic Alaska to southern Chile) and includes an estimated 500,000 lots containing approximately 4.5 million specimens.

Malacology staff, associates, and volunteers sort, identify and verify specimen identifications, curate, rehouse, database, and incorporate specimens into the research collection. These tasks represent a huge undertaking in terms of the number of specimens incorporated into the collection annually. Malacology is active in museum programs, offering hands-on experiences with both extinct and extant mollusks and local geology. 


In addition to using our world-class malacology collection as a resource to identify specimens, some helpful identification guides include:

  • Abbott, R.T. 1974. American Seashells. Second edition. Van Nostrand Reinhold Company: New York, NY. 663 p.
  • Abbott, R.T. 1989. Compendium of Landshells. American Malacologists, Inc.: Melbourne, FL. vii + 240 p.
  • Abbott, R.T. and Dance, S.P. 1982. Compendium of Seashells. Second edition. American Malacologists: Melbourne, FL. 411 p.
  • Brtacher, T. and Cernohorsky, W.O. 1987. Living Terebras of the World. American Malacologists, Inc.: Melbourne, FL. 240 p.
  • Burgess, C.M. 1985. Cowries of the World. Seacomber Publications: Cape Town, South Africa.  xiv + 289 p.
  • Coan, E.V., Valentich-Scott, P. 2010. Bivalve Seashells of Tropical West America: Marine Bivalve Mollusks from Baja California to Northern Peru. Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History Monographs 6, vi + 1258 p.
  • Coan, E.V., Valentich-Scott, P., and Bernard, F.R. 2000. Bivalve Seashells of Western North America: Marine Bivalve Mollusks From Arctic Alaska to Baja California. Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History Monographs 2, viii + 764 p.
  • Geiger, D.L. & Owen, B. 2012. Abalone: Worldwide Haliotidae. ConchBooks: Hackenheim, Germanh
  • Grant, U.S., IV, and Gale, H.R. 1931. Catalogue of the Marine Pliocene and Pleistocene Mollusca of California and Adjacent Regions. Memoirs of the San Diego Society of Natural History 1, 1036 p.
  • Kay, E.A. 1979. Hawaiian Marine Shells. Reef and Shore Fauna of Hawaii 4, Bernice P. Bishop Museum Special Publication 64(4), Bishop Museum Press: Honolulu, Hawaii. xvii + 653 p.
  • Keen, A.M. 1971. Sea Shells of Tropical West America: Marine Mollusks From Baja California to Peru. Second edition. Stanford University Press: Stanford, CA. xiv + 1064 p.
  • Lorenz, F. and Hubert, A. 2000. A Guide to Worldwide Cowries. Second revised and enlarged edition. ConchBooks: Hackenheim, Germany. 584 p.
  • Lorenz, F. and Fehse, D. 2009. The Living Ovulidae. A manual of the families of allied cowries: Ovulidae, Pediculariidae and Eocypraeidae. ConchBooks: Hackenheim, Germany. 651 p.
  • McLean, J.H. 1979. Marine Shells of Southern California. Revised edition. Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, Science Series 24, 104 p.
  • Okutani, T. (ed.). 2000. Marine Mollusks in Japan. Tokai University Press: Tokyo, Japan. xlviii + 1173 p.
  • Poppe, G.T. 2008. Philippine Marine Mollusks, volumes 1 & 2. ConchBooks: Hackenheim, Germany.  v. 1, 759 p., v. 2, 848 p.
  • Poppe, G.T. 2010. Philippine Marine Mollusks, volume 3. ConchBooks: Hackenheim, Germany. 665 p.
  • Poppe, G.T. 2011. Philippine Marine Mollusks, volume 4. ConchBooks: Hackenheim, Germany. 676 p.
  • Powell, A.W.B. 1979. New Zealand Mollusca. William Collins Publishers, Ltd.: Auckland, New Zealand. xiv + 500 p.
  • Wilson, B. 1993. Australian Marine Shells: Prosobranch Gastropods, Pt. 1. Odyssey Publishing: Kallaroo, Australia. 408 p.
  • Wilson, B. 1994.  Australian Marine Shells: Prosobranch Gastropods, Pt. 2 (Neogastropods). Odyssey Publishing: Kallaroo, Australia. 370 p.

Our Staff

Jann Vendetti, Ph.D.

Jann Vendetti is NHM’s Twila Bratcher Chair in Malacological Research, and a founding member of the Urban Nature Research Center.

Lindsey T. Groves

In 1988, Lindsey came to the Museum as a Curatorial Assistant on a National Science Foundation (NSF) collection grant. He is now Collections Manager for Malacology.


For information pertaining to marine, freshwater, fossil mollusks, or specimen loans:
Mr. Lindsey T. Groves
Collection Manager of Malacology

For information about sea slugs, terrestrial mollusks, the UNRC, and SLIME
Dr. Jann E. Vendetti
Bratcher Curator of Malacology