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Shells Behind the Scenes

Malacology Behind-the-Scenes Tour

October 3, 2012

What shell in the Academy’s Malacology Collection is bigger than any of our other shells, including Clamzilla the giant clam? It’s the 53-inch-long KuphusKuphus polythalamia, to be exact.

If your response is “Huh?” then you’re in good company. Kuphus is found only in the western Pacific and Indian oceans, particularly near the Philippines. With a shell resembling a long, white tusk, the 53-inch-long member of the shipworm group was added to the Academy’s Malacology Collection on our 200th anniversary in March 2012. During October, you can see the Kuphus and many other fascinating specimens during behind-the-scenes tours of our Malacology Collection of 10 million preserved mollusks.

Join Collection Manager Paul Callomon behind the scenes to find out more about the Malacology Department’s research and see Kuphus itself! View shipworm shells and wood with burrow holes. Check out fossils, corals, and marine and other invertebrates, including crabs. Get up close with cultured pearl Buddhas from 1850s China, lethally venomous cone snails, colorful thorny oysters, endangered and extinct tropical snails, and a giant octopus.

The Academy’s Malacology Collection is the third largest shell collection in the world. Built over the past 200 years, this collection contains specimens that document the ways humans have shaped their environment over several centuries. Scientists at the Academy and around the world use the collection to study evolution, marine and terrestrial biodiversity, disease and parasitism, global warming, pollution, conservation, geophysics, geology, history, and anthropology.

During October, you will have plenty of opportunities to meet our scientists, see the special shells they have placed on display in the lobby, and learn from our researchers and educators during Science Live. To take a behind-the-scenes tour, visit the museum Thursdays through Mondays at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. throughout the month. You can sign up for a behind-the-scenes tour at the Admissions Desk on the day of your visit, or you can call 215-299-1167 for more information. The tours are $7.50 for nonmembers and $5 for members (ages 8 and up).