Museu de Ciències Naturals de Barcelona

Non-arthropod invertebrates

Science Collections Zoological collections Non-arthropod invertebrates

The concept of non-arthropod invertebrates makes no biological sense but answers the organizational requirements that traditionally exist in museums and academic institutions. The Department of Non-Arthropod Invertebrates of the museum contains close to 100,000 specimens of a huge diversity of biological types of highly diverse evolutionary origins: sponges, coral, molluscs, worms of all kinds, starfish, jellyfish, sea urchins and others. The conserved samples vary in their presentation: dried skeletons of invertebrates in preserving fluid, microscope slides, etc.

They can be consulted by filling out a search form or browsing a graphic selection. The specimens of greater scientific value include more than 300 records corresponding to type specimens and materials deposited in accordance with the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature for type specimens of newly described species or subspecies. The museum’s type specimens can be consulted on a specific website.

  • Collection fund
  • Sources of acquisitions
  • Preparation and preservation
  • Molluscs (snails, mussels, octopuses, etc.)

    This is the largest collection of this department, with almost 90,000 records. It includes specimens of continental and marine molluscs. The collection is made up of study material, basically conchological (pertaining to shells) but with a growing representation of samples in preserving fluid. It is the result of a broad, continuous and thorough prospection of different locations, carried out by researchers of the calibre of Artur Bofill, Joan B. Aguilar-Amat, Friedrich Haas and Carles Altimira. Starting with the founding collection of Francesc Martorell, the collections of Joan Rosals, Baltasar Serradell and, more recently, Luis Gasull and Miquel Bech, have provided significant additions to the malocological collections of the museum.

    The collection of molluscs includes approximately 85,000 specimens or batches of specimens. As well as land molluscs and fresh-water molluscs, mainly from Catalonia, the Balearic Islands, Valencia, North Africa and the Iberian Peninsula, it also contains specimens of marine molluscs from the Mediterranean and other, more distant seas. The origins of other smaller representations are distributed throughout the planet. Some of the specimens conserved are type specimens, used to describe new species.

  • Cnidarians (corals, jellyfish, etc.)

    Almost 1,000 records make up the cnidarian collection, conserved in the dry state and in preserving fluid. It has been compiled from old specimens contributed by Josep Maluquer in early 1917. Several collections created out of research projects were donated in 2012.  Dr. Josep M. Gili, of the Institute of Marine Sciences (CSIC), and Dr. Pablo J. González, of the University of Sevilla, together donated more than 600 specimens that have made it possible to represent some 450 species of cnidarians in the museum. It also contains type specimens.

  • Annelids (earthworms, leeches, polychaete worms, etc.)

    This is essentially a collection of specimens preserved in fluid. Almost 400 records that represent 40 species, distributed throughout Catalonia, the Iberian peninsula, the Balearic Islands and North Africa. A significant part of the collection comes from collecting work carried out during biospeleological research.

  • Echinoderms (sea urchins, starfish, sea cucumbers and sea lilies)

    A collection that was started with donations of the Royal Academy of Arts and Sciences of Barcelona, combined with the founding collections of the museum donated by Francesc Martorell and others, such as the Baltasar Serradell collection. The samples conserved in alcohol come basically from the Naples Zoological Station and the Santander Marine Biology Station. More than 200 batches are conserved, corresponding to more than 40 species, basically from the Mediterranean.

  • Bryozoans (moss animals)

    What had been a residual collection has become a notable biological group among the museum’s collections. In 2013, the specimens from the research collections created by Dr. Mikel Zabala from the University of Barcelona and Dr. Teresa Madurell of the Institute of Marine Sciences were brought to the museum. As a result, some one hundred organic specimens and the corresponding photographic series have the museum’s current collection of bryozoans notable for its representation of the diversity of the Mediterranean. It includes type specimens.

  • Porifera (sponges)

    The Museum has a (still small) representation of Mediterranean sponges, as well as some exotic specimens. Some one hundred specimens to illustrate the Mediterranean fauna, with approximately 20 species represented.

  • Platyhelminthes (flatworms)

    More than 60 samples for little over a dozen species, most of them parasites, make up a collection often fed with type specimens of newly described species.

  • Other collections

    The rest of the collections of this department constitute a smaller volume of specimens that has, nevertheless, been increasing thanks to the addition of research collections. A further hundred specimens are distributed among several zoological groups: 10 phyla. Worth mentioning are the collections of brachiopods (a little more than 50 records) and nematodes (some 40 records), as the most numerous of the minority collections in the Department of Non-Arthropod Invertebrates.

The sources of the collections of this department are highly varied. The largest part of the collections consist of collections of individuals of renowned prestige, specimens obtained by museum technical staff, and legacies from research projects. The main core of the molluscs collection, the largest in the department, was built up from research by the museum and the addition of collections collected by scientists and naturalists. The period most notable for the number of specimens brought into the museum corresponds to the activity of the Catalan school of malacology during the first half of the 20th century.

In terms of institutions, notable donations include that by the Barcelona Royal Academy of Arts and Sciences, that by the Naples Zoological Station (Italy) and that by the Santander Marine Biology Station (currently the Cantabrian Maritime Museum). The museum also contains study material from doctoral theses on cnidarians (corals and jellyfish) and sponges.

At present, the growth of the collections is the result, firstly, of collection associated with research projects carried out by the department, although material is also brought in from donations by other researchers and naturalists who have gathered together scientifically documented collections.

Occasionally, materials from police interventions, seized through application of environmental law, are deposited with the Museum.

The samples of collected non-arthropod invertebrates usually require little handling to be transformed into study specimens. The lack of an external skeleton, like that of arthropods, or of an epidermis with keratin, characteristic of vertebrates, means that conservation techniques based on conserving the dried external appearance cannot be used.

The profusion of collections of aquatic organisms or soft-bodied organisms had lead to an extended practice in this department in favour of preserving specimens in fluids like alcohol. The most notable exceptions are land or aquatic mollusc shells or the exoskeletons of corals and brachiopods.

The predominance of preserving fluids makes it necessary to ensure the maximum stability of the conditions for consulting the preserved specimens. Permanent care in the inspection of conservation conditions requires controlling sudden evaporation, changes in pH, loss of density of the solutions in alcohol, etc. Guaranteeing the scientific and outreach application of the collections, today and tomorrow, has lead the conservation professionals to an objective of continued vigilance of the conservation materials and conditions with which the specimens are maintained.

The currency of the commitment to the collections is universal in all the departments of collections, but in the case of the specimens of phyla that are neither chordates or arthropods, the balance is inverted: less attention to the initial preparation of the specimens in exchange for much more prevention regarding which fluids are ideal in each case and how long-term performance in terms of preservation and consultation are ensured.  Furthermore, provision must be made for the preservation of preparations for optical or electron microscopy, histology sections and associated photographs, etc.