Molluscs are a familiar sight in gardens, on the beach, and on our plates. The most easily recognisable are the snails with their typical coiled shell, and the bivalve molluscs such as mussels and scallops which are often served up in seafood restaurants.
Slugs are molluscs although they have no external shell. Squid, octopi and cuttlefish also lack an external shell and are supported by internal structures like the cuttlefish’s ‘cuttlebone’ or the ram’s horn squid’s coiled shell.
Molluscs can grow much larger in the oceans than they do on land. The largest known invertebrate, the colossal squid, may grow to over 14 metres long. RAMM doesn’t have one of these in the collections although the museum does have some of its smaller cousins including the ram’s horn squid. Another very large mollusc is the giant clam, which can reach 200 kg in weight and live for 100 years.
RAMM’s shell collections
The attractive external shells of land and aquatic molluscs have attracted many a Victorian collector and we have some beautiful examples in our collections. The majority have been preserved as dry specimens and many are in still in the original boxes the collectors and original curators lovingly stored them in.
- Miss JE Linter (1844-1909) – Over 15,000 lands snails that were donated to RAMM in 1909. Some are now very rare or even extinct and many are very attractive
- Miss Florence Jewell – collection of foreign marine shells.
- Colonel George Montagu (1753 – 1815) – He used this collection to provide the descriptions and illustrations for one of his most important works: Testacea Britannica: a Natural history of British shells, marine, land, and fresh-water, including the most minute: systematically arranged and embellished with figures, which was published in 1803. Many are type specimens.
- Lieutenant George Peard – collected shells, birds and minerals during his voyage of discovery on HMS Blossom.
- JT Carrington – collection of UK land snail shells including the examples of the many banding patterns fround in Cepaea nemoralis and C. hortensis.