Museumstag 2022



The mollusc collections include both Recent and Tertiary fossil molluscs, and is one of the world’s major research collections. 

The collection includes about 33,000 species and subspecies of Recent molluscs and around 12,000 Tertiary fossil taxa. It comprises about 700,000 lots, including approximately 30,000 lots of type material, of which around 8,000 are holotypes or lectotypes. 

Approximately 18% of the collection (and growing) is digitally catalogued and can be accessed online through the Senckenberg collection management system AQUiLA. Records from the Senckenberg collectios are also contributed to GBIF.

Approximate number of species represented in the collections:

RecentTertiaryin total
Marine gastropods13,4008,00021,400
Terrestrial gastropods14,6001,10015,700
Other groups500250750

Focus of the collection

Terrestrial Molluscs

Terrestrial and limnic molluscs make up the scientifically most important part of the collection in Frankfurt with about 22.000 taxa and 340.000 lots. Landsnails in particular contribute to the wordwide recognition of this collection.

Most important portions are:

Europe: Outstanding are the collections of E. A. Rossmässler (1806-1867) with vouchers of his fundamental „Iconographie der Land- und Süßwasser-Mollusken“ (1835-1859) and of P. Ehrmann (1868-1937) with vouchers of  the “Tierwelt Mitteleuropas”. The collections of W. Kobelt (1840-1916), O. Boettger (1844-1910) and K. L. Pfeiffer (1874-1952) are rich of vouchers for many publications on Europe, in particular Southern Europe and the Caucasian region. The collection is even rich in material from the islands of Madeira, the Canaries and the  Capverdes. The Balcans and in particular Turkey have been the main research interest of the honorary collaborator H. Schütt (1923-2009) whose collection with ca. 3.000 species and appr. 17.000 lots went as a legacy to Senckenberg in 2010.

The Philippines: Thanks to the monographic works on the landsnails by O. F. v. Moellendorff (1848-1903) the Senckenberg institute possesses probably the largest and most complete collection from this archipelago. With regard to the acute threat by habitat destruction this collection is of particular importance.

Asia and the Pacific region: Numerous samples from China, Japan, Indochina, the Carolines, New Guinea and the Moluccas are housed in the collection. Of particular importance are the freshwater molluscs from Thailand which form the basis of the monograph of R. Brandt (1974).

Arabia: Still ongoing research of the honorary collaborator E. Neubert is making the collection of endemic landsnails from Soqotra the best of its kind.

Land and freshwater molluscs from Africa, North and South America and  Australia are represented in good numbers as well.

There are several parts of the collections that have outstanding importance for global systematics. One of them are freshwater mussels (Unionida) which were made one of the largest and most important collections worldwide by the works of F. Haas (custodian 1910-1936). The samples from Europe cover nearly all European river systems. Among the rich material from North America and Asia there are many extinct or endangered species.
A small insight into the collection of freshwater mussels is given by the Naiad Lot of the Month.

Our holdings of the family Clausiliidae represent the largest and most specious collection worldwide. This part is being permanently enlarged in a spectacular way thanks to the research of the honorary collaborator H. Nordsieck.   

Other collections of outstanding importance include the Cyclophoroidea  (operculate prosobranch landsnails), Rissooidean freshwater snails, Helicoidea, African Achatinidae and South American Bulimulidae.

The section of terrestrial and freshwater molluscs also received the collections of the following eminent authors and collectors: C.R. Boettger,  H.G. Bronn,   H.V. Ihering, S. H. Jaeckel, H. Kaltenbach, A. Liebegott, G. Nägele, H. Nordsieck, K. L. Pfeiffer, O. Reinhardt,  W. R. Schlickum, H. Schütt, A. Zilch.

Marine Molluscs

Scientifically important are the molluscs from European and Arabian seas. The basic stock is formed by E. Rüppell’s shells from the Red Sea shells and the Mediterranean Sea. Here voucher material is contained for Kobelt’s „Iconographie der schalentragenden europäischen Meeresconchylien“ (1883-1908), several parts of the „Neues Systematisches Conchylien-Cabinet“. Another important part are samples from the Indopacific, especially from the Philippines, pertaining to various papers of O. Boettger. Since 1977 the collection is permanently enlarged with material collected by Senckenberg researchers and by German research vessels (Meteor, Sonne, Valdivia) as well as by the regularly conducted cruises of the FK Senckenberg to the North Sea. Important materials were brought together by two expeditions to Hainan Island (China) and several projects related to the Persian Gulf, the Red Sea and Soqotra Island. The collection of F. Nordsieck (1906-1984) contains many types of European molluscs.  In 1990 R. v. Cosel donated his very extensive worldwide collection (ca. 4.000 species, more than 25.000 lots) with its particular focus on Caribbean material, especially from Colombia. The collection of H. G. Bronn (1800-1862) contains among others the types of one of the first publications on Japanese marine molluscs by W. Dunker (1861). Since the 1990s molluscs from hydrothermal vents have enriched the collections. The collection of F. A. Schilder (1896-1970) ranges among the most important ones about cowries and related groups.

Alltogether,  marine molluscs are represented by approx. 11.000 species and 170.000 lots.

Additional important material of recent terrestrial as well as marine molluscs, among which many types, is present from:  C.B. Adams, C.M. Cooke, H. Cuming, W. Dunker, V. Gredler, F. Held, D.F. Heynemann, F. Kinkelin, H.C. Küster, R. Lais, Th. Menke, A. T. Monterosato, H. Nordsieck, P. Pallary, L. Pfeiffer, R.A. Philippi, O.V. Retowski, H. Rolle, TH. Verkrüzen, W. Wenz, C.A. Westerlund, W.K. Weyrauch.

Tertiary Molluscs

The collection of Tertiary molluscs with around 12.000 species and about 190.000 lots has its focus on the European Tertiary among which Oligocene and Neogene faunas are particularly well represented. With regard to geography and stratigraphy the most important parts are Oligocene and Miocene of the North Sea basin, the French basins (Aquitaine basin, Paris basin, Loire basin) and the Miocene of the Paratethys as well as the Neogene of the Mediterranean region. The historical stock is formed by objects which come from J. Chr. Senckenberg (1707-1772) and the rich materials from the neighbouring  Mainz basin. Extraordinarily precious is the collection from the Miocene of Romania from where O. Boettger described more than 400 new species. Very rich are the faunas from the Tertiary of the North Sea basin with many types and vouchers to publications of J. Görges, H.-J. Anderson, R. Janssen and others. Tertiary land and freshwater molluscs are well represented with many types by the collections of O. Boettger, K. Fischer, W. R. Schlickum and H. Schütt. Since 1977 systematically conducted collections in many European Tertiary basins and rich donations of important private collections (such as of H.-J. Anderson, D. Grüll, H. Krock, W. Lappann, H. Moths, A. Piehl, Th. Schellmann, F. Weinbrecht, G. Wienrich) make the Tertiary collection the largest and most species-rich stock in Germany and thus even one of the very important ones in Europe. 

Library & Catalogues

A large number of published historical catalogues summarise the important holdings of the collection, including type catalogues for different aspects of the collections.

Our collections include an important library comprising some 35,000 titles and over 100 specialist periodicals. The Malacology Library also holds collections of handwriting samples and portrait photographs of malacologists. It also houses

The division is the residence of the Deutsche Malakozoologische Gesellschaft and contributes to the editorial work of the world’s oldest continuously published specialist journal in malacology, “Archiv für Molluskenkunde”.

Collections and the library are open to scientific users upon prior arrangement with the Head of Section.