Annelids are vermiform animals made up of a series of recurring units that each contain a fluid-filled internal cavity. They are 99% marine although some species live in the soil.
Annelids are conventionally subdivided into 3 groups: Polychaete Annelids, Oligochaeta, including earthworms, and Hirudinea (leeches). Several studies indicate that Hirudinea are only a sub-group of Oligochaeta and that these actually belong to the Polychaeta group. The 3 groups are probably not separate but included within each other. For historical reasons, annelids are divided into different collections at the Muséum: the interstitial fauna of the annelids is integrated into the Meiofauna collection, "non-Meiofauna" Oligochaeta are attached to the general Parasite biology collection, and "non-Meiofauna" Polychaeta, which are in the majority, are placed in the Annelid collection. All of the non-live specimens are generally fixed in formalin and then preserved in alcohol.
The main benefit of the collection (several hundred thousand individuals, thousands of species), also lies in the fact that it contains specimens from all over the world, in particular the French coasts, the Red Sea, the Indo-Pacific zone and the Antarctic.
This Annelid collection, one of the richest in the world, is of both scientific and historic interest. It contains many types, including those of Jean-Baptiste de Lamarck and other 19th-century specimens harvested by Marie-Jules-César Le Lorgne de Savigny, Jean Louis Armand Quatrefages de Bréau and Baron Saint-Joseph. These describers thus laid the foundations for the Annelids’ classification, with their specimens still providing a reference for nomenclature today. This collection is supported by a unique document collection.
Since 2000, the collection has benefited from renewed interest in systematic research into Annelids. The first studies of this collection at molecular level have commenced. Taxonomic and nomenclatural revisions have been made. These studies include the revision of the Nereidiformia (including Nereidae), the morphological and molecular study of family relationships within the Siboglinidae family (formerly the Pogonophora and Vestimentifera branches), and the revision of the Syllidae and Flabelligeridae. During this period, a Typothèque (type library with over 1,550 types in 2013) was set up and is regularly enriched by specimens from all over the world. It can be consulted on the database of the Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle.
Tarik Meziane, Curator of Annelid Collections
Tel. +33(0)1 40 79 31 14