Fossil echinoderm collection

The Muséum’s fossil echinoderm collection is one of the biggest in the world. Sea urchins, crinoids, starfish and ophiuroids form the core of this collection.


The echinoderm fossil collection is probably the biggest in the world due to its great variety of specimens and species. Most of the samples are classified by systematic order. A large part of the collection is computerized and available in the online database.

There are also some regional collections like those from the Montagne Noire (Courtessole & Griffe’s coll.), from Madagascar (Capitaine Colcanap’s coll.) or from Egypt (studied by Perceval de Loriol in the 1880s).

The online database contains around 15,000 lots of echinoderm specimens including 14,000 echinids (regular and irregular sea urchins) and 1,000 lots of crinoids. Other organisms are also represented, albeit to a lesser extent, mainly ophiuroids and starfishes.

Over 2,600 type and figured specimens have now been listed.

Faujasia apicalis (Desor, 1847), oursin du Crétacé de la Montagne Saint-Pierre (Pays-Bas)

© MNHN - C. Lemzaouda

Pseudosalenia aspera (Agassiz, 1840), oursin du gisement de Canjuers (Jurassique supérieur)

© MNHN - C. Lemzaouda

Plegiocidaris marginata (Goldfuss, 1826), oursin du gisement de Canjuers (Jurassique supérieur)

© MNHN - C. Lemzaouda

Geocoma sp., ophiure du gisement de Canjuers (Jurassique supérieur), vue dorsale

© MNHN - C. Lemzaouda

Pentasteria sp., étoile de mer du gisement de Canjuers (Jurassique supérieur), vue dorsale

© MNHN - C. Lemzaouda

Hardouinia potosiensis Lambert,1936 (holotype), oursin du Crétacé supérieur de Cardenas (Mexique)

© MNHN - C. Lemzaouda


The collection is the result of several centuries of sampling. It has benefited in particular from the heritage of Lamarck’s pioneering research. The Muséum also houses 125 reference specimens described in Les Animaux sans vertèbres.

With over 10,000 lots of echinid specimens, the Lambert collection is undoubtedly the biggest. It is one of the largest collections of sea urchin fossils ever gathered by one man.

The archive also includes other major collections:

  • the d’Orbigny collection, which contains type specimens of the Paléontologie Française, in particular the irregular sea urchins of the Cretaceous;
  • the historical collection (formerly stored in Zoology) which contains the specimens studied by Agassiz in the 1830s then by Desor in the 1840s;
  • the Péron collection, which contains many sea urchin species collected throughout French regions, particularly Corsica;
  • the Dubertret collection, which comprises a thousand clypeasterid sea urchins from the Miocene in Turkey.


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.

The huge Lambert collection is regularly visited by researchers, who find previously unseen, rare or extremely well-preserved specimens there.

Efforts are continually made to classify all the echinoderm fossils by systematics and the collection keeps on growing.


Loans and visits are managed by the scientific managers of the collections:

Dr. Denis Audo, Collection Manager

Jean-Michel Pacaud, Manager of the Typothèque of Invertebrate fossils

Notes de bas de page