The Muséum’s marine arthropod fossil collection contains specimens from all over the world. Many Currently existing and extinct groups are represented: trilobites, eurypterids, pycnogonids, limulids and crustaceans (crabs, shrimps and lobsters).
The marine arthropod fossils collection is very old and is composed of several palaeontological collections corresponding to a wide variety of organisation systems: by locality, by age or by systematics. The following ones are stored at the Muséum:
- large historical collections assembled by prestigious naturalists (e.g. Faujas de Saint Fond, Brongniart, Desmarest, d’Orbigny, Milne Edwards);
- stratigraphic collections (e.g. French Jurassic);
- specialist collections relating to consistent taxonomic groups (e.g. crabs of the Desmarest’s collection);
- geographical collections (e.g. crustacean fossils from Madagascar).
The collection contains an estimated 20,000 specimens of marine arthropod fossils including 6,000 trilobites, 2,000 decapod crustaceans and 300 thylacocephalans (enigmatic arthropods that became extinct in the Cretaceous). Over 2,100 type and figured specimens have now been listed.
The collection is the result of work by crustacean palaeontology pioneers and dates back to the end of the 18th century, when Faujas de Saint Fond put together the first consistent group, including specimens collected by the French Revolutionary armies. From the beginning of the 19th century, famous naturalists from the Muséum or associated researchers laid the basis for marine arthropod systematics: Latreille, Brongniart, Desmarest and Milne Edwards. These men left an international scientific heritage and constituted world-renowned collections. During the 19th century, the collection was further enriched by donations, bequests and purchases. Many specimens then arrived following the exploration of lands that were very far away for the time, like Madagascar and Indochina.
The collection was further enriched in the 20th century, with major exploration missions in the Middle East (Dubertret and Arambourg missions), Madagascar (Colcanap, Collignon and Bésairie missions) and North Africa (Hollard and Drot missions).
The collection is mainly used for fundamental research (taxonomy, comparative anatomy and systematics) as well as museography and teaching. It is regularly visited by international researchers who in particular wish to consult the reference specimens stored in the Typothèque of Fossil Invertebrates.
Current research focusses on crustaceans yielded by exceptionally well-preserved deposits from the Jurassic in France (La Voulte-sur-Rhône Lagerstätte, Canjuers Lagerstätten) and Germany (Solnhofen, Eichstätt), and from the Cretaceous in the Lebanon (Hadjoula, Hakel, Sahel Alma).
Loans and visits are managed by the heads of the collections: http://colhelper.mnhn.fr
Dr Sylvain Charbonnier, Collection Manager
Jean-Michel Pacaud, Manager of the Typothèque of Invertebrate fossils