The Collection

Search our Mollusk Database

More than 142,000 records in the Carnegie mollusk collection database are currently searchable on-line on Invert-E-Base. For additional information or to report updates or corrections to the data, please contact Tim Pearce.

Type Specimens

A type specimen is a specimen chosen by a scientist when he or she describes a new species. The type is the gold standard use by other scientists to determine whether their specimen is that species. The collection contains at least 2,000 lots of type specimens. Most of the types are freshwater or terrestrial mollusks from North and South America, or terrestrial gastropods from Japan and Pacific islands. The type collection has been described in the following publications:

  • Smith, H. H. 1902. "An Annotated Catalogue of the Genus Partula in the Hartman Collection belonging to the Carnegie Museum." Annals of the Carnegie Museum 1(3): 422-485.
  • Brooks, S. T. and B. W. Brooks. 1931. "List of Types of Pelecypoda in the Collection of the Carnegie Museum on January 1, 1931." Annals of the Carnegie Museum 20: 171-177.
  • Brooks, S. T. and B. W. Brooks. 1931. "List of Types of Amphineura and Gastropoda in the Collection of the Carnegie Museum on January 1, 1931." Annals of the Carnegie Museum 20: 179-253.
  • Parodiz, J. J. 1967. "Types of North American Unionidae in the Collection of the Carnegie Museum." Sterkiana No. 28: 21-30.
  • Parodiz, J. J. and J. J. Tripp. 1988. "Types of Mollusca in the Collection of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. Part I. Bivalvia and Gastropoda (Prosobranchia and Opisthobranchia)." Annals of the Carnegie Museum 57: 111-154.

    About the Collection

    The Mollusks collection at Carnegie Museum contains specimens that are valuable to researchers both locally and worldwide. The molluscan collection at Carnegie Museum is one of the 15 largest in the United States, and boasts more terrestrial and freshwater mollusks from western Pennsylvania and adjacent states than any other museum. The collection is especially strong in North American freshwater mussels (Unionoida), fingernail and pea clams (Sphaeriidae), terrestrial gastropods, and freshwater gastropods.

    The holdings include many historically valuable specimens (some with preserved soft parts) from the late 1800s and early 1900s and a type collection of over 2,000 lots. The freshwater and terrestrial collections have some of the most precise locality data of any major mollusk collection in the world. Researchers outside of North America, especially from South America, also use Carnegie specimens.

    The Carnegie mollusk collection began with the donations and collections of curators H. H. Smith and G. H. Clapp, and has been built upon by subsequent curators and assistants including A. E. Ortmann, V. Sterki, S. T. Brooks, G. K. MacMillan, and J. J. Parodiz. The mollusk curator position was vacant for 20 years 1982-2002, at which time Tim Pearce was hired as the sixth curator of mollusks at Carnegie Museum of Natural History.

    Cases and Drawers

    The dry mollusk collection is stored in 73 state-of-the-art steel cabinets with 3,500 aluminum drawers. Fluid-preserved specimens are stored in six flame proof storage cabinets.

    Specimens and Curatorial Status

    The mollusk research collection contains about 3 million specimens in some 150,000 lots, of which more than 85% are computerized.

    Other identified lots are filed in the collection in systematic order with the cataloged specimens. Organization of the dry specimens is based on Bouchet & Rocroi (2005, 2010) for gastropod and bivalve families and higher, WoRMS for taxonomy of marine mollusks below family, and Millard (2008) for other taxonomic groups. To accommodate their different conservation and security needs, dry specimens, fluid-preserved specimens, and type specimens are each housed separately. Uncataloged material includes older material plus newer donations and worldwide terrestrial mollusks collected since 1979 by Carnegie Museum entomologists. A backlog of more than 15,000 lots awaits preparation, identification, and curation.

    Scope of the Collection

    The mollusk collection at Carnegie Museum includes marine, freshwater, and land mollusks from throughout the world. The collection includes six of the major Recent molluscan classes: Gastropoda, Bivalvia, Cephalopoda, Polyplacophora, Scaphopoda, and Solenogastres, and is particularly strong in non-marine Gastropoda and Bivalvia of eastern North America, especially from western Pennsylvania and adjacent states. The collection contains primarily Recent specimens, with a notable number of Cenozoic fossil specimens, some of which are types.


    Carnegie Museum's collection ranges over the three major habitats: freshwater, marine and terrestrial. There are 50,660 lots of terristrial snails, 39,373 lots of freshwater mollusks and 20,533 lots of marine mollusks.


  • Freshwater Bivalves: There are 11,467 lots of Unionoida, including 9,827 from North America, 439 from South America, 316 from other parts of the world and 885 unsorted lots. The largest habportion of the North American material was collected in the early 1900s by A.E. Ortmann. These specimens come from Pennsylvania and the Appalachian Region. In many of the localities from which Ortmann collected, the Unionids are today either threatened or extinct. The specimens collected by Haseman from 1909-1911 make up a major portion of the South American Unionoida. This group was further augmented by the collections of Parodiz. There are 439 lots, exclusive of type material, in the S.A. collection. The Corbiculidae number 102 lots and are particularly strong in the South America fauna. Parodiz collected most of these. Based on visits to the collection by South American malacologists, Parodiz believes this South American collection to be one of, if not the best, curated collections in North America. The Sphaeriidae number 16,119 lots. Approximately 12,000 of those are from the Sterki collection.
  • Freshwater Gastropods: There are 11,685 lots of freshwater gastropods. The majority of these are from North and South America.
  • Terrestrial Gastropods: There are 28,427 lots of North American land snails. There are also 15,750 lots from other localities around the world. The unsorted material numbers 6,483 lots, much of which is from North America.
  • Marine Mollusca: There are 15,951 lots of gastropods, 4,258 lots of bivalves and 388 lots of other classes. This material is worldwide in scope.



  • classgast Gastropoda: The Class Gastropoda is the largest molluscan class and the largest group of mollusks in Carnegie Museum's collection. Of the approximately 115,000 lots in the collection, some 78,296 lots (68% of the collection) are gastropods. Of these lots, 50,660 are terrestrial gastropods and 11,685 are freshwater gastropods. The breakdown of the terrestrial gastropods is: 28,427 lots from North America, 15,750 lots from other localities around the world, and 6,483 lots which are currently identified but unsorted as to local. The marine gastropods number 15,951 lots.
  • Bivalvia: The Class Bivalvia is the second largest class of mollusks. Carnegie Museum's collection contains 31,946 lots. The largest group within the bivalves are the representatives from the Sphaerioidea. There are 16,119 lots of Sphaeriidae of which approximately 12,000 come from the Sterki Collection. The Corbiculidae number 102 lots and are especially strong in South American material. The second largest group is the Unionoida, at 11,467 lots in size. Of these, 9,827 lots are from North America, 439 from South America, 316 from other parts of the world, and 885 are unsorted lots. The largest portion of the North American material was collected by A. E. Ortmann in the early 1900s from Pennsylvania and the Appalachian region. Although they were abundant when he collected them, many of the unionids from localities where Ortmann collected are now either threatened or extinct. Haseman collected a major portion of the South American Unionoida from 1909-1911. His collection was further augmented by collections made by Parodiz. The 439 lots in the South American collection are exclusive of type material. The marine bivalve collection contains 4,258 lots. This collection is worldwide in scope.
  • Other Classes: Three other classes are represented in the marine material. The collection classbivcontains representative specimens from the Polyplacophora, Scaphopoda and the Cephalopoda. These specimens comprise 324 lots.

    Other Material

    In addition to the above material the type collection contains 1,335 lots. There are approximately 3,000 lots of Cenozoic fossils in the collection. All told, the holdings in the Section of Mollusks add up to approximately 115,000 lots as of June 2000.

    Significant Sub-collections


  • from George H. Clapp: terrestrial shells of North America north of Mexico
  • from Victor Sterki: Pupillidae, Sphaeriidae, 275 bound and unbound monographs as well as 1500 reprints
  • from Arnold E. Ortmann: Appalachian Mountain Range unionids
  • from J. Jose Parodiz: Unionoida and terrestrial and freshwater gastropods of North and South America
  • from Prof. Herman Wright: freshwater mollusks from Tippecanoe River System of northern Indiana
  • from William Elliott Burnett: marine, freshwater, and land mollusks
  • from John D. Haseman: freshwater mussels from northern South America