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From our Collections

This "brain coral" is one type of stony coral in the order Scleractinia.  They live in shallow, warm-water reefs, can live for 900 years, and can grow up to six feet high.  Coral may resemble a rock, but it is actually a colonial animal, made up of genetically idential polyps.

What's On This Crab?

Decorator crabs (superfamily Majoidea) use their claws to collect bits of invertebrates and algae from their environment and attach them to their exoskeletons.  They have hooked bristles, or setae, on their carapace that hold the decorations in place.  These decorations provide camouflage and chemical defenses to help protect them from predators.


Marine Biodiversity Center (MBC) FAQs

What is biodiversity?

Biodiversity refers to the variety of all life on Earth. The word "biodiversity" is a contracted version of "biological diversity." The Convention on Biological Diversity defines biodiversity as: "the variability among living organisms from all sources including, inter alia, terrestrial, marine and other aquatic ecosystems and the ecological complexes of which they are a part; this includes diversity within species, between species, and of ecosystems."

There are three components to biodiversity: genetic diversity, species diversity, and ecosystem diversity. Genetic diversity refers to the variation in genes that exists within and between populations of species. Genetic diversity is crucial for adaptation to changing environments, and thus the survival of populations. Species diversity refers to the variety of species that exist in an ecosystem or throughout the world. Ecosystem diversity means the variety of ecosystems on the planet.

What does the MBC do?

The MBC serves as a clearinghouse for many of the marine and freshwater invertebrates that come into the Museum. Many of these collections are unsorted and unidentified, and are often not in museum-grade containers with adequate labels when they arrive. The mission of the MBC is to serve as a center for curatorial excellence in the Invertebrate Zoology Department, the largest division in the Research and Collections Branch of the Natural History Museum. The MBC curates an amazingly diverse group of animals represented by the 33 invertebrate phyla.  Learn More >

What does curate mean?

Curation begins with an assessment of the collections. The MBC assesses each collection as to the approximate size of the collection (e.g. number of lots, jars, buckets, shelves occupied, etc.). The specimens are assessed under the microscope, identified, sorted by taxa, entered into our database, and labeled with complete information about where and when they were collected and by whom. Then they are placed in museum-grade glass jars filled with ethanol and shelved in the appropriate collection room. 

Why does the MBC curate specimens?

Museum collections are like libraries that document the diversity and patterns of life on the planet at various times and places. The specimens in our collections serve as a reference that scientists can study to learn about all of the different species and the environments in which they lived, as well as how the environment is changing over time. Many new species have been described based on specimens in our collections.

Why are collections important? Learn More>

What is an invertebrate?

An invertebrate is an animal without a backbone. Invertebrates constitute over 95% of all described animal species, and many more are constantly being discovered.  Invertebrates live in every habitat on Earth, from extreme environments like deep-sea hydrothermal vents, to freshwater and terrestrial habitats. The simplest invertebrates, and the simplest animals, are sponges. 

What types of invertebrates does the MBC curate?

The MBC curates and stores mostly marine invertebrates and some freshwater invertebrates. Phyla represented by our collections include: Porifera (sponges), Cnidaria (jellyfish, anemones, corals), Ctenophora (comb jellies), Platyhelminthes (flat worms), Nemertea (ribbon worms), Nemata (round worms), Nematomorpha, Priapula, Acanthocephla, Entoprocta, Annelida (segmented worms, includes Polychaetes), Sipuncula, Echiura, Arthropoda (a very large group, includes Crustacea), Phoronida, Ectoprocta, Brachiopoda, Chaetognatha (arrow worms), Hemichordata, and nonvertebrate Chordata (sea squirts, ascidians, tunicates).

How many specimens do we have?

The MBC collections contain over 22,000 lots, with one to hundreds of specimens per lot.