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Type Specimens, Immortalized

September 4, 2013

type specimens

The malacology collection at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University is one of the largest in the world, numbering more than 8 million specimens, with examples of roughly half the known living species of mollusk.

As the oldest collection of its kind in North America, the collection of mollusk at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University is rich in type specimens, which are of great scientific importance because they are the original specimens upon which a new species is based. The collection has marine, terrestrial and freshwater specimens from all parts of the world, with greatest strength in North America, Asia and Oceania.

The type specimens in the malacology collection are accessible through visits to the Academy, something not always feasible for researchers overseas. But a recent grant from the National Science Foundation is helping Academy scientists share this collection with researchers around the world. The three-year grant is funding production of digital images of thousands of type specimens. The specimens are being imaged with regular photographic equipment and smaller ones also with a scanning electron microscope, or SEM.

“There are about 12,000 specimens, and with several views of each specimen, plus pictures of the labels, we’ll end up with something like 60,000 images online,” says Gary Rosenberg, head of the Academy’s Malacology Department and principal investigator of the project.

Read more from Drexel University's award-winning research magazine, Exel.