Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum Frankfurt


Puglia, Italy

Malacology is the science dealing with the study of molluscs (phylum Mollusca). Molluscs are a highly diverse group of invertebrate animals and with probably about 150.000 living species they are Cephalopoda: Nautilus pompiliusthe second in size to the Arthropoda (insects, crustaceans etc.). The phylum Mollusca is divided into several classes such as the gastropods (snails and slugs), bivalves (cockles, mussels, oysters etc.), cephalopods (cuttlefish, squids, octopuses etc.), scaphopods (tusk shells), Polyplacophora (chitons), Polyplacophora: Chiton olivaceusMonoplacophora and Aplacophora (worm molluscs). Most species of molluscs carry a calcareous shell covering the soft-bodied animal but some groups do not have a shell (terrestrial and marine slugs, most cephalopods, aplacophorans).

Molluscs are inhabiting marine, land and freshwater habitats and they are important members of nearly every ecosystem and its food chain . In many parts of the world molluscs  are also a significant food source for humans and their shells are used in many ways for jewellery and arts and crafts. Many species serve as ecological indicators for the condition of habitats. Fossil shells are used for age determination of rocks and can serve for reconstruction of past ecosystems. Some species are vectors of parasites which cause severe human diseases.

However, because of pollution and Bivalvia: Tridacna squamosadestruction of their often restricted habitats many species especially of terrestrial gastropods and freshwater bivalves are in danger of extinction and need conservation measures. Their varied and colorful shells are searched after by many shell collectors all over the world. Some attractive seashells like the giant Tridacna clams may not be traded under the law of the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species.

Gastropoda: Eobania vermiculataTheir ecological importance, economic value and excellent fossil record make molluscs and their shells an interesting and fascinating field of research with many applied aspects.


The Section of Molluscs of the Senckenberg Reserach Institute Frankfurt am Main belongs to the Department of Marine Zoology. The research of its members focusses on systematics and taxonomy