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Marine Invertebrate Collection

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The Alexander Agassiz Laboratory at Hopkins Marine Station once held an extensive collection of marine invertebrate specimens.   The Academy’s Department of Invertebrate Zoology & Geology acquired a significant portion of the Hopkins Marine Station collections in the latter half of the 1970s. Several paragraphs from the publication History of invertebrate zoology at the California Academy of Sciences broadens our understanding of this collection.

The October 1972 Academy Newsletter describes the acquisition of the Stanford University Hopkins Marine Station collections, “A major collection of marine invertebrates of the Pacific Ocean, built up over the past half-century by leading Pacific Coast marine biologists, that had been in storage at Hopkins Marine Station in Pacific Grove, has recently been transferred to the research collections of the CAS’ Department of Invertebrate Zoology…The collection, totaling more than 4,000 lots and ranging back to the mid-19th century, is judged to be of tremendous scientific and historical interest, and includes the specimens upon which many classic Pacific coast marine invertebrate studies were based. The collectors comprise a kind of ‘who’s who’ among pioneer biologists of the coast, including David Starr Jordan, M. D. De Laubenfels, William Healey Dall, Alexander Agassiz, Libbie Hyman, S.F. Light, and many others, as well as specimens collected by E.F. Ricketts (Fig and John Steinbeck in the Sea of Cortez. Included in the material are many unique specimens of marine animals rarely seen by marine biologists. And there is non-invertebrate material among which is a three-inch humpback whale embryo!

An internal Academy report describes the Stanford and Hopkins acquisitions during the early 1970s, During this period, the remaining collections of Stanford University were transferred to the Academy. This included a teaching and reference collection from the Hopkins Marine Station at Pacific Grove, which was soon discovered to be scientifically unique and one of the most historically important collections of west coast Invertebrata. The collection contains many specimens collected as early as the mid-19th century. Many type specimens of the ostracods described by Tage Skogsberg, and thought to be lost to science, were discovered. Well over 100 primary and secondary asteroid types of W.K. Fisher were also ‘’rediscovered.’ Many specimens bore a California Academy of Sciences label; the synoptic collection begun by the Academy in 1914 and accumulated by W.K. Fisher had finally ‘come home’ to the Academy.

History of invertebrate zoology at the California Academy of Sciences. Proceedings of the California Academy of Sciences. Williams, Gary C. (May 11, 2007). 58 (12): 209.

One can view the specimens one held in this collection by searching the California Academy of Sciences Zoology Collection Database.

The remaining invertebrate collection contains a number of historically interesting specimens from the Albatross Expedition to the NE Pacific in the early 1900's, numerous local specimens collected by George MacGinitie in the 20's and 30's, three or four specimens purchased from Ed Ricketts’ Pacific Biological Laboratories (still with his tags), a cnidarian specimen collected by Ricketts (with tag), and several from the Antarctic and the Te Vega expeditions. The only specimens disposed of were those that had deteriorated or been used repeatedly as dissections in classes and common local animals that had no ID tags, etc. The collection now includes mostly local species, with an eclectic mix of exotics from various locations around the world -- people must have sent or brought back things for Dr. Abbott from those places.