Research & Collections


The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences’ invertebrate collection is comprised of three units: millipedes and centipedes, freshwater and marine crustaceans and mollusks. This collection consists of more than 50,000 catalogued lots totaling more than 641,000 specimens and is actively growing. Collections acquired in 1996 from the University of North Carolina Institute of Marine Sciences have added strength to the Museum’s invertebrate collection in the areas of marine crustaceans and brackish and marine mollusks. The Museum’s millipede collection is of international significance, including a major series of Sigmoria.

The Museum’s crustacean collection contains approximately 9,000 lots containing approximately 96,000 specimens. Research emphasis is on freshwater decapods, especially crayfishes. At 26,000 specimens, the crayfish collection is one of the largest in the Southeast, and contains many type specimens.

The Museum’s mollusk unit’s current research emphasis is on freshwater mollusks, especially freshwater bivalves. Collection composition is 83% freshwater species (mussels, fingernail clams and snails), 10% marine species and 7% terrestrial species (snails). Our collection consists of three parts: the Museum’s historical collection (prior to 1996) of about 3,500 lots or approximately 20,000 specimens, the former Institute of Marine Sciences’ (IMS) collection of about 25,000 lots containing an estimated 233,000 specimens and the Herbert D. Athearn, Museum of Fluviatile Mollusks Collection containing approximately 25,000 lots and an estimated 300,000 specimens. Athearn’s collection was the largest privately held collection of freshwater mollusks in the country. The IMS collection includes Hugh Porter’s collection of marine and brackish water mollusks of North Carolina.

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