Echinoderms live exclusively in sea water, at all depths. This is a very original group of animals whose adults have an internal skeleton formed of calcite plates and a pentaradial symmetrical plane (order 5). Its best-known representatives are sea urchins and starfish.

The Muséum’s Echinoderm collection is mainly a scientific collection. Some samples are dry preserved, while some are preserved in alcohol. Some holothurian specimens are displayed on microscope slides (around 5,000 slides). The number of samples is estimated at 500,000, of which 0.4% are types. The echinoderms have been harvested from all the world’s oceans, at all latitudes. The highest number of specimens comes from the Western Indo-Pacific region and the Southern Ocean.

Currently, there is only one paper file consultable on site. Each record contains the name of the genus, species, author, inventory number, place and year of harvest, and sometimes publications. Since 2009, all new specimens are been recorded electronically, with the records being gradually computerised. The entire slide collection has been computerised and is accessible on the website. An “Echinoderms” library is accessible to researchers.

Jean-Baptiste de Lamarck was one of the first people to seriously contribute to the Echinoderm collection. One of the oldest specimens is a pedunculated Crinoid, harvested and identified by Guettard in 1761. The main scientists who took part in building this collection are Jean-Baptiste de Lamarck, Blainville, Alcide d’Orbigny, Herouard, Koehler, Perrier, Valenciennes and more recently G. Cherbonnier, who breathed new life into this collection. The main travellers involved were Cotteau, Quoy and Gaimart, Lesueur and Péron, and Wyville-Thomson. This collection is nowadays consulted by many scientists. Recent oceanographic campaigns (from 1960 to the present day) have considerably enriched it, and it is proving to be of exceptional diversity and importance.

The collection’s main research areas are systematics (morphology, genetics and ontogeny), as well as ecology, biogeography and phylobiogeography. The Echinoidea have been used for pollution studies. Some echinoderms are also used in biomedical studies.
The collections are growing all the time and the main acquisitions come from French and foreign oceanographic campaigns. The collection is also involved in collaborations: IRD, FSAL (French Southern and Antarctic Lands) and Ifremer in particular.
Many French and foreign scientists come to work on the collection. Loans are also made to various foreign Muséums and major foreign institutions.

Marc Eléaume, Head of the Echinoderm Collection