The Muséum’s Myriapod collection is one of the biggest in the world (along with those in London, Chicago, Berlin, Vienna and St Petersburg) for all the groups it contains. The specimens come from all over the world and belong to the classes Pauropoda, Symphyla, Chilopoda (5 orders) and Diplopoda (16 orders), collected from all types of ecosystem.
Almost 5,000 species of Myriapods are represented in the Muséum, including a large number of historical and recent types, which explains how it earned its nickname as the "Mecca of Myriapods". The Myriapod collection comprises about 55,000 samples, representing around 350,000 specimens. The specimens are conserved in jars of 75° alcohol, or on slides.
A veritable collection of Myriapods was created in the 19th century, when the Gervais and Lucas type specimens were gathered together, then continued in the first half of the 20th century with the collection resulting from the work of H.W. Brölemann (1890 to 1935). The Brölemann collection includes a very large number of samples, including many types described by Brölemann himself, as well as by the greatest scholars of the time (R.I. Pocock, F. Silvestri, R. V. Chamberlin, K. W. Verhoeff, C. Attems, O. Schubart). After 1940, the collections grew with a number of bequests to the Muséum, such as P. Remy’s Pauropoda collection or the Myriapod collections assembled by specialists, students of Brölemann and the Toulouse school, like J. Chalande and H. Ribaut. The collection was then enriched and managed by B. Condé, J.-M. Demange, J.-P. Mauriès and M. Nguyen Duy-Jacquemin. This effort continues today with Jean-Jacques Geoffroy’s work to conserve the collection.
The most notable and oldest items in the collection are Gervais and Lucas’ Diplopoda and Chilopoda types. Tens of thousands of specimens are added to the collection every year. Among the most recent acquisitions, the biggest are collections from Madagascar, Guiana, Brazil, various extreme environments in Europe (high mountain, deep underground, transformed forests) as well as China and South-East Asia. The new additions currently being studied come from South-East Asia, continental France, and expeditions in 2005 and 2006 to Clipperton and above all Santo (Vanuatu).
The main research areas relating to the collections are systematics on the one hand - taxonomy (description, inventory, naming, classification) and phylogeny (interpretation of the mechanisms of evolution and speciation) - and community ecology and applications in biodiversity, environment and expertise management on the other. The collection material loaning and returns service is of paramount importance, as well as welcoming researchers, who come from all over the world to consult and study the collection (invitations, Synthesys, etc.).
Jean-Jacques Geoffroy, Associate Curator and Loans Manager
Tel. +33(0)1 60 47 92 08
4, avenue du Petit Château
Above: Scutigerella immaculata (Newport, 1845). Class Symphyla, Family Scutigerellidae. This translucent white micro-myriapod measures 5 to 8 millimetres in length and has twelve pairs of legs in adulthood. It is part of the soil mesofauna, contributing to the functioning of edaphic compartments and the renewal of organic matter.
Below: Lithobius forticatus (Linnaeus, 1758), Class chilopoda, Order Lithobiomorpha, Family Lithobiidae. This picture clearly shows the super-predator role of the major chilopods in the soil compartments of many ecosystems, where they help to regulate prey populations within edaphic mesofauna communities.