Temporary Exhibitions & Events

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Squids, devil’s fingers, and tentacles – the fascinating world of cephalopods

Present-day cephalopods, such as octopods and squids, are characterized by a crown of tentacles on the head, as their Greek name implies. Today, more than 700 species live in all the world’s oceans, from the coast to the deep sea, in some cases occurring in massive quantities. In the geological past, the species diversity was much greater than today. Cephalopods originated in the Late Cambrian, at least 500 million years ago.

Cephalopods belong to the phylum Mollusca, precisely as the bivalves and snails, but they differ from the latter in their lifestyles. Mussels live on or in the substrate and are filter-feeding on microorganisms. Snails crawl on the substrate and graze. On the other hand, cephalopods swim in the sea water as predators and hunt other marine animals.

Present-day cephalopods hold amazing records among invertebrates. The giant squid Architeuthis reaches a length of more than 18 m, and thus is the largest mollusc, with the largest lens eyes in the animal kingdom (diameter 30 cm). Relative to its body size, the Nautilus lays the largest eggs (c. 2 cm), and the eight-armed octopuses are by far the most intelligent invertebrates.

The original cephalopods share with their relatives (snails, mussels) an externally visible calcareous shell (Ecotcochleata), as in the primordial present-day nautilids, while in most modern representatives the shell occurs inside the body and is partially or completely reduced (Endocochleata, coleids).

The special exhibition at the Paleontological Museum Munich illuminates not only the evolutionary history but also many paleobiological aspects of cephalopods, such as the Bauplan, shell structure, way of life, interaction with other organisms as well as the diversity of this fascinating group of animals. 

The exhibition is based on the collection of Prof. Helmut Keupp (Berlin), which was purchased by the Free State of Bavaria in 2014 with the support of the local booster club “Freunde der Bayerischen Staatssammlung für Paläontologie und Geologie München e.V.”. The collection comprises about 100,000 fossils with a focus on cephalopods and here mainly ammonites. It also contains extensive material on other invertebrate groups as well as fossils from selected fossil deposits (Lagerstätten). The pieces/objects/fossils come from all over the world and from different periods of the earth’s history. The uniqueness of the Keupp Collection is based in particular on the thousands of specimens of pathological cephalopods. These are shells or other hard parts that show changes in their shells or hard parts due to genetic defects, diseases, injuries or exposure to predators.

Sunday opening February 2024

04.02.2024 - 04.02.2024 -
Paleontological & Geological Museum Munich

10 a.m. to 4 p.m., usually with: [...]

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Sunday opening March 2024

03.03.2024 - 03.03.2024 -
Paleontological & Geological Museum Munich

10 a.m. to 4 p.m., usually with: [...]

learn more