Mollusk fossils

The Muséum’s marine mollusk fossil collection contains specimens from all over the world. All extant and extinct groups are represented, including cephalopods (belemnites and ammonites), bivalves (rudists), gastropods, rostroconches, scaphopods and polyplacophorans.


The mollusk fossil collection is very old and is made up of several palaeontological collections corresponding to a wide variety of classification systems: by locality, by age, by systematics and by author.

The following are stored at the Muséum:

  • large historical collections assembled by prestigious naturalists such as Lamarck, Brongniart, d’Orbigny and Cossmann.
  • stratigraphic collections like the old collection of balcony of the Palaeontology Gallery.
  • specialized collections relating to consistent taxonomic groups - particularly that of the fossil cephalopods.
  • geographical collections like those of the Paris basin.

Several million specimens are thus stored here, mainly cephalopods and bivalves from the Palaeozoic and Mesozoic, as well as Cenozoic bivalves and gastropods. Over 47,000 lots have been computerised, including 10,000 type specimens.


The collection was initially based on the d’Orbigny collection, acquired in 1857. Later on, it was enriched in the second half of the 19th century by those of other naturalists from the Muséum or closely associated with the Muséum: Faujas de Saint-Fond, Lamarck, Ménard de la Groye, De Blainville, Hupé, Brongniart A., Tournouër, Péron, Etallon, Pervinquière, Toucas, Vasseur, de Morgan, etc.

This collection is made up of donations, bequests and purchases of collections that sometimes predate the creation of the palaeontology chair in 1853 (Faujas de Saint-Fond and Lamarck). Other collections come from the exploration of distant lands in the 20th century, like Madagascar, explored by Besairie and Collignon, and the Sahara by Amard.


The collection is mainly dedicated to fundamental research (taxonomy, comparative anatomy and systematics) as well as museography and teaching. It is regularly called upon by international researchers who wish to consult the reference specimens stored in the Typothèque of invertebrates.

Current research is focussed on mollusks derived from exceptionally well-preserved deposits from the Jurassic in France (La Voulte-sur-Rhône), and the Cretaceous in the Lebanon (Hadjoula, Hakel, Sahel Alma). These mollusks are cephalopods (octopus or squid) whose soft body rarely fossilised.

In addition, the testaceous mollusks of the Cenozoic era (bivalves and gastropods) are also studied in great depth. Their colourful patterns, which are very diverse when the shellfish are alive but cannot be seen in their fossilised form in natural light, can be revealed under Ultraviolet light. This discovery enables us to study the evolution of these patterns during the geological time periods, and also to study the deterioration of the pigments that led to their formation.


Loans and visits are managed by the heads of the collections:

Dr Didier Merle, Collection Manager

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

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