The Mollusc Collection comprises around 5 million specimens, which makes it one of the largest collections in the Museum für Naturkunde. It consists of substantial dry and ethanol collections with overall 260,000 collection units (jars/boxes) covering all mollusc groups. It includes historically valuable material and 9,125 type specimens. In addition, there are specialist collections, such as the collection of approximately 18,000 microscope slides or the collection of molluscs being used in artefacts.
With over 100,000 species, molluscs are the second most diverse phylum after the arthropods. Their origin can be traced back to the Cambrian 550 million years ago. This is where the fossil record of hard shells began, first just simple cone shapes, later more complex, spiral-type shells. Today, molluscs live in the sea, in freshwater and on land. It is estimated that of all the mollusc species described throughout the world, about half is represented in the collection of the Museum für Naturkunde Berlin.
The phylum includes not only the well-known snails and slugs (Gastropoda), mussels and clams (Bivalvia) and squid/octopus (Cephalopoda), but also four lesser known groups that are less rich in species – the worm-like Aplacophorans, cap-like shells (Monoplacophora), chitons (Polyplacophora) and tusk shells (Scaphopoda).