Illinois Natural History Survey - University of Illinois



Malacology is the study of Mollusks. Malacology differs from Conchology which is the study of shells only. There are over 100,000 described living mollusk species and it has been estimated that another 100,000 are undescribed and await formal description. Mollusks are a diverse group consisting of the familiar clams (Bivalvia), snails and slugs (Gastropoda) and octopuses (Cephalopoda) and the not so familiar chitons (Polyplacophora), tusk shells (Scaphopoda), solenogasters (Aplacophora), Monoplacophorans, and Caudofoveatans. Man has used mollusks for various reasons including money, jewelry, decorations, and as tools. Many species are commercially important. The commercial harvest of freshwater mussels is a multi-million dollar industry in North America where shells are harvested and exported to Asia where they are made into nuclei for insertion into oysters to create cultured pearls. Many species of freshwater mussels and snails are threatened or endangered throughout the world which has sparked renewed interest in their study. If trends are not reversed and stream degradation and loss of habitat continues we will lose many of the interesting and beautiful shells from our nations waters.

INHS Malacologist Kevin S. Cummings has additional information about mollusks.

Some past articles published in INHS Reports:

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