Mala-what? Walk Through our Malacology Hall

One of the most spectacular – if under-appreciated – exhibit halls here at HMNS is the Hall of Malacology. Maybe it’s the fact that “malacology” is such an unfamiliar term. (It means “the study of mollusks.”) Maybe it’s the fact that it’s just steps away from the stunning Hall of Gems and Minerals. Whatever the reason, it seems this hall just doesn’t get the foot traffic (I think) that it deserves.

The Hall of Malacology is so-named because it features the amazing animals that live inside shells – not just the beautiful homes they leave behind. The collection on display includes stunners like the world’s largest shell (it’s HUGE) and Busycon perversum, or Lightning Whelk – the Texas State Shell – as well as tons of fascinating information on these soft-bodied wonders.

In the video below, associate curator David Temple walks us through the HMNS Hall of Malacology and shares some of the most interesting items on display. Enjoy!

Can’t see the video? Click here.

100 Years – 100 Objects: Cypraea cervus

The Houston Museum of Natural Science was founded in 1909 – meaning that the curators of the Houston Museum of Natural Science have been collecting and preserving natural and cultural treasures for a hundred years now. For this yearlong series, our current curators have chosen one hundred exceptional objects from the Museum’s immense storehouse of specimens and artifacts—one for each year of our history. Check back here frequently to learn more about this diverse selection of behind-the-scenes curiosities—we will post the image and description of a new object every few days.

This description is from Tina, the museum’s associate curator of malacology. She has chosen a selection of objects that represent the most fascinating shells and animals in the Museum’s collections, that we’ll be sharing here – and at 100.hmns.org- throughout the year.

Cypraea cervus – Linne, 1771

Shell bottom-original

“Cowries” are among the most numerous of the molluscan Families. This species of Cypraea can be found from off North Carolina, to Florida, Cuba and Brazil. But it is also rarely found off the Texas coast in an area known as The Flower Garden Banks.

These glossy shells are not found on Texas’ beaches because the distance to shore is too great to allow the shells to wash in so far. But divers and researchers have documented and collected a few specimens. This is one of the specimens that HMNS has in its collection.

Learn more! Dive into the Malacology Hall, a permanent exhibition at the Houston Museum of Natural Science.

You can see more images of this fascinating artifact – as well as the others we’ve posted so far this year – in the 100 Objects section at 100.hmns.org

100 Years – 100 Obejcts: Haliotis dalli

The Houston Museum of Natural Science was founded in 1909 – meaning that the curators of the Houston Museum of Natural Science have been collecting and preserving natural and cultural treasures for a hundred years now. For this yearlong series, our current curators have chosen one hundred exceptional objects from the Museum’s immense storehouse of specimens and artifacts—one for each year of our history. Check back here frequently to learn more about this diverse selection of behind-the-scenes curiosities—we will post the image and description of a new object every few days.

haliotis-dalli-dorsal-crop

This description is from Tina, the museum’s associate curator of malacology. She has chosen a selection of objects that represent the most fascinating shells and animals in the Museum’s collections, that we’ll be sharing here – and at 100.hmns.org- throughout the year.

Henderson, 1915

As a member of the Abalone family of Mollusks, Halitois dalli is a very small species which is found only in the Galapagos Islands from deep water where it is only rarely seen. This one measures 20 mm and was found in 1980 off Isla Santa Cruz in 60 meters of water.

You can see more images of this fascinating artifact – as well as the others we’ve posted so far this year – in the 100 Objects section at 100.hmns.org

100 Years – 100 Objects: Bailer Shell

The Houston Museum of Natural Science was founded in 1909 - meaning that the curators of the Houston Museum of Natural Science have been collecting and preserving natural and cultural treasures for a hundred years now. For this yearlong series, our current curators have chosen one hundred exceptional objects from the Museum’s immense storehouse of specimens and artifacts—one for each year of our history. Check back here frequently to learn more about this diverse selection of behind-the-scenes curiosities—we will post the image and description of a new object every few days.

This description is from Tina, the museum’s associate curator of malacology. She has chosen a selection of objects that represent the most fascinating shells and animals in the Museum’s collections, that we’ll be sharing here – and on hmns.org – throughout the year.

This very large species of the Volutidae Family can reach lengths in excess of 500 mm and is found along the northern coast of the Australian continent. There are also documented populations along the southern coast of New Guinea

These shells were used by native peoples to bail the water from their dugout canoes as they traveled and are therefore commonly referred to as “Bailer Shells.”

The animals that construct and live in these large shells are a source of food for local peoples and can weigh from three to five pounds without their shells. They inhabit shallow areas in the littoral zonedown to ten meters in depth. The females lay eggs in clusters with each newborn hatchling fully formed and ready to begin life. These babies are between 18 to 25 mm at hatching and begin the hunt for food almost immediately. Since they are predators in their environments, Melo amphora will even prey on their own species. 

M. amphora can produce “pearls” in much the same way that South Sea pearls and cultured pearls are produced.  They are extremely rare and tales of fabulous sets of them have been written about. However, very few have been documented and few are in public collections such as Museums. 

Learn more! Dive into the Malacology Hall, a permanent exhibition at the Houston Museum of Natural Science.

You can see larger and more detailed images of this rare specimen – as well as the others we’ve posted so far this year – in the photo gallery on hmns.org.