Museu de Ciències Naturals de Barcelona

Non-Arthropod Invertebrates

Science Scientific departments Non-Arthropod Invertebrates

The Department of Non-Arthropod Invertebrates holds collections of 16 zoological phyla (the phylum is the first division into which the animal kingdom is classified). However, molluscs form the largest group in the department’s collections. Molluscs are also one of the most diverse groups of animals. Interestingly, the founding patrimony of the museum included the collection of molluscs, mostly tropical, collected by Francesc Martorell i Peña.

The diversity of organisms preserved in this department also represents a large variety of geographic origins and, more importantly, habitats. This department of the museum most clearly shows the animals that populate the sea bottom. It is no coincidence that molluscs, so well represented in the collections, are one of the few phyla with species that are found on land and in both sea water and fresh water.

  • Staff
  • Projects
  • Publications
  • Services
  • Resources

External staff

  • Miguel Prieto, molluscs and general zoology collections , Myrmex


Researchers who have recently donated collections and who look after them

  • Josep M. Gili: cnidarians
  • Pablo J. González: cnidarians
  • Teresa Madurell: bryozoans
  • Mikel Zabala: bryozoans

Scientific support and review of the collections

  • Cristian Altaba: molluscs
  • Vicenç Bros: molluscs
  • Jordi Cadevall: molluscs
  • Carles Gili: molluscs
  • Cristina González: georeferencing
  • Elisabeth Hernández: molluscs
  • Jordi Nebot: molluscs
  • Albert Orozco: molluscs

Collection Management Projects

The inventory of collections and databases that describe the collections of the department was completed in 2010. The revision and cataloguing of the collections continues to be the priority and accounts for more than 30% of all recorded elements. We currently have tools for describing collections, which facilitate optimum exploitation of the specimens and of the associated information that makes up the collections. The rhythm of documentation and computerization is intensive in order to fuel the sources of information of the collections. Now, the database has already completed the documentation of all the phyla represented in the department, except for the molluscs, by far the largest collection. The part of the collections already computerized forms part of the broadest biodiversity platform in the world, the portal GBIFGlobal Biodiversity Information Facility, where the malacology collection and the group of collections known as general zoology are particularly accessible.

Special attention is being paid to the documentation of type specimens. The initial results are visible in the form of the catalogue for mollusc types (published in Catalan, Spanish and English). Several collections that have come to the department or occasional items brought in by researchers are continuously growing the collection of specimens accredited as type specimens. A web page has been set up with interactive query capability for information on the type specimens.

One aspect of the documentation that is being jointly worked on with the the departments of collections is georeferencing, i.e., information of coordinates that make it possible to analyse the distribution of the specimens in space. Current collecting techniques include the use of devices to determine precisely the position, but the vast majority of the museum’s collections were obtained in earlier days and only text-based descriptions of the collection points are available. This retrospective georeferencing process, i.e., assigning coordinates to descriptions based on toponyms, is a vast project that is being fully developed in the internal and public organization of the department.

As documentary knowledge of the collections already in the museum advances, opportunities arise for taking action to improve the presence of zoological groups poorly represented among the museum’s collections.

Scientific Projects

Designing the collections as a scientific infrastructure means providing it with the maximum capability for consultation and use applied to research. This is the spirit of the website Bioexplora. Firstly, clear and intuitive consultation tools are being developed for the collections, which lead to procedures for downloading the results in different formats. This is the objective of deveoping a proprietary project: Taxo&Map.

A website created to be available to whoever wants to consult the museum’s collections in greater depth is WikiCollecta, which allows expert consultants and the general public to learn more about the collections, the people who have taken part in managing the scientific patrimony of the department, or how the retrospective georeferencing processes are carried out.

Biological research in the department takes place in two areas: terrestrial malacology, the more traditional area, and marine biology, which was added more recently. The drive to research is still subject to the priority of achieving the scientific endowment of the collections – a goal that is very near.

With regard to the conservation conditions of the specimens in the collections, special attention is paid to the quality of the preservative liquids and their ability to not interfere with the molecular analysis of the specimens. Several experiments have been carried out to determine the stability over time of the conservation conditions produced by the different liquids.

Finally, it is important to note the participation in the projects of periodical publications published by the museum, specifically Arxius de Miscel·lània Zoològica and Animal Biodiversity and Conservation.


The main service is providing a rapid and efficient response to queries about the curated collections either remotely via the website or in person following an application (contact: Francesc Uribe).

For researchers, there are delayed custody services for material that is still subject to review by scientific publications.


Action criteria

The action criteria of this department are designed with the conviction that online projection of the content of the collections is primordial.

The reflection on this matter, which has been included in a general plan of the museum, can be followed in this document.

Collaboration with the Department of Non-Arthropod Invertebrates

Traditionally, there are people who collaborate on the work programmes of the department or who find support in the department for developing their own projects. Ways are being initiated in the department to facilitate this active participation. Direct care of the collections, review of the documentation (labels, data sheets, etc.) and publication of contents on the Internet are three examples of experiences in which collaboration has been productive for both parties – the museum and the people who collaborate with it.

The formal link is established via the Association of Friends of the Barcelona Natural History Museum. If the idea of collaborating on the scientific activity of the department interests you or sparks your curiosity, please ask for an interview with Francesc Uribe, the head of the department, to explore options for collaborating.