About the Malacology Department | Natural History Museum of Los Angeles

Goodall Chiton (Chiton goodalli), Hirases Slitshell (Perotrochus hirasei), Noble Scallop (Mimachlamys crassicostata), Green Tree Snail (Papuina pulcherrimaNautilus pompilius).
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Malacology Contact Information

Got mollusk questions?

Department business hours are 8 am to 5 pm, Monday through Friday. Please call (213) 763-3376 or contact Lindsey Groves at lgroves@nhm.org

Pacific Conchological Club

Interested in shell collecting? The Malacology Department sponsors the Pacific Conchological Club (PCC), which meets at NHM usually on the second Sunday of each month from January through May and October and November. The PCC resulted from a 2003 merger of two historic clubs, the Conchological Club of Southern California and the Pacific Shell Club. For details and further club information visit the PCC website.

Donations to Malacology

At the discretion of the Malacology Department, shell specimens or collections may be accepted as donations from individuals and/or institutions provided complete locality information is available at the time of donation. The department also accepts donations of cash, books, and/or equipment. All donations are tax deductible, however, it is the responsibility of the donor to obtain a collection appraisal prior to donation.


About the Malacology Department

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. Learn more about what is happening in malacology here.




Mollusk Researchers at NHM

Dr. Jann Vendetti, Twila Bratcher Chair in Malacological Research

Jann studies the evolutionary biology and systematics of marine whelks in the gastropod family Buccinidae, marine sea slugs in the group Sacoglossa, and terrestrial gastropods and slugs of Southern California. 

Lindsey T. Groves, Collections Manager

Lindsey has been supervising the upgrading and databasing of the collections since 1988. His research interests are extant and extinct cypraeoideans (cowries and their kin) of the Western Hemisphere as well as extinct abalone.

Dr. James H. McLean, IN MEMORIAM

Jim retired in 2001 after a dedicated career in malacological research and specimen collection at the Natural History Museum of LA County. He is responsible for amassing much of the NHM's world-class mollusk collection and has authored and contributed to hundreds of publications. One of his largest bodies of work, one or more volumes on the East Pacific Gastropods, is being finished by dozens of his colleagues and edited by Daniel Geiger (Curator of Malacology, Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History), Lindsey Groves (NHM), and Jann Vendetti (NHM). Jim passed away on November 11, 2016, with his family by his side. Jim's extraordinary knowledge of the gastropods from the Eastern Pacific may never be matched. His legacy of collections work lives on through the James H. McLean Student Grant in Collections-Based Research sponsored by the Western Society of Malacologists. 

Spotlight on the Malacology Collection

Invasive species are not new to California. One of the latest non-native species to take up residence is the New Zealand Mud Snail [Potamopyrgos antipodarum]. Approximately 5 mm in length they can reach concentrations of thousands of individuals per square meter. They consume large amounts of food and out-compete native species. It appears that little can be done to eradicate them.  Thoroughly cleaning all fishing gear after use and never moving live fish or plants from one body of water to another can slow their spreading to new fresh water habitats. In Los Angeles County the New Zealand Mud Snail has been reported from Malibu Creek, Las Virgenes Creek, Lindero Canyon Creek, and Medea Creek in the Santa Monica Mountains. They have been reported from all the western states except New Mexico.  Note that the image shows 24 individuals on a US dime (18 mm in diameter).