Fossil marine arthropods

The collection of fossil marine arthropods at the Muséum contains specimens from all over the world. Many extant and extinct groups are represented: trilobites, eurypterids, pycnogonids, limulids and crustaceans (crabs, shrimps and lobsters).


The collection of fossil marine arthropods is very old and is composed of several palaeontological collections corresponding to a wide variety of classification systems: by locality, by age or by systematics.

The following ones are stored at the Muséum:

  • large historical collections gathered by prestigious naturalists (e.g. Faujas de Saint Fond, Brongniart, Desmarest, d’Orbigny, Milne Edwards);
  • stratigraphic collections (e.g. Jurassic of France);
  • specialised collections relating to consistent taxonomic groups (e.g. crabs of the Desmarest’s collection);
  • geographical collections (e.g. fossil crustaceans from Madagascar).

The collection contains about 20,000 specimens of fossil marine arthropods 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.

Proxicarpilius planifrons, crabe du Lutétien du Pakistan (carapace en vue ventrale)

© MNHN - P. Loubry

Glyphea regleyana (neotype), langouste glyphée du Jurassique supérieur de Haute-Saône (France)

© MNHN - C. Lemzaouda

Hamatolenus continuus (holotype), trilobite du Cambrien du Maroc

© MNHN - J. Falconnet

Mesolimulus walchii, limule des calcaires lithographiques du Jurassique supérieur de Bavière

© MNHN - C. Lemzaouda

Bailiella seguieri (paratype), trilobite du Cambrien de la Montagne Noire (France)

© MNHN - J. Falconnet

Macrophthalmus latreillii, crabe du Pléistocène des Philippines

© MNHN - P. Loubry

Aeger spinipes, crevette des calcaires lithographiques du Jurassique supérieur de Bavière (Allemagne)

© MNHN - P. Loubry


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 remote areas 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 marine invertebrates.

Current research focuses on crustaceans yielded by exceptionally well-preserved deposits from the Jurassic in France (La Voulte-sur-Rhône, Canjuers Lagerstätten) and Germany (Solnhofen, Eichstätt), and from the Cretaceous of Lebanon (Hadjoula, Hakel, Sahel Alma).


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

Prof. Sylvain Charbonnier, Manager of the Crustacean collection

Dr. Denis Audo, Manager of the Trilobite collection

Jean-Michel Pacaud, Manager of the Typothèque of Fossil Invertebrates

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