Containing priceless historical samples such as the type specimens described by Bouvier in the 1900s, the Muséum’s collection of Onychophora (also known as Peripatus or velvet-worms) is among the world’s biggest collections representing the minor Onychophora phylum. In many cases, the latter is a key group in the phylogeny of Metazoa.
Containing about a hundred different species and several hundred specimens grouped into 210 parcels, the collection contains over 40 type specimens. Managed with the Myriapod collection, the specimens are preserved in 75° alcohol and put into tubes, which are in turn placed in jars filled with alcohol. The study of Onychophora is of considerable importance in research into phylogenetic relationships, enabling us in particular to connect the arthropod groups with the other Invertebrates.
The Onychophora collection was created at the turn of the 20th century, when historical specimens were gathered together by Louis Eugène Bouvier, who occupied the Muséum’s entomology chair from 1895 to 1931. Bouvier’s types are some of the oldest specimens and are still vital to the study of this group today. It expanded gradually over the decades with the addition of specimens from the main natural ranges of the two current Onychophora families (South America, South Africa and Australasia). In 2000, the collection underwent a full review by one of the world’s leading specialists in the group, H. Ruhberg (Hamburg).
The main research areas relating to the Onychophora collections are systematics, from a taxonomic angle (description, inventory, naming and classification) and from a phylogenetic angle (interpretation of the mechanisms of evolution and speciation). Every year, researchers from all over the world ask to borrow items and consult the collection.
Cyrille D’Haese : cyrille.dhaese [@] mnhn.fr