Our specimens have been collected from all over the world, in marine and freshwater environments. Here one of our scientists collects freshwater crustaceans in Mongolia.
Since they can't move, sponges produce chemical defenses to fend off predators. Scientists have discovered two chemical compounds in the "Elephant's Ear" sponge that have anti-tumor action, especially against leukemia and ovarian cancer cells. Many natural products with potential human benefits have been discovered in marine life.
The Marine Biodiversity Center curates marine and freshwater invertebrates. Some of the marine invertebrate collections date back to when the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County first opened in 1913. The vast Allan Hancock Collections, from the University of Southern California, were transferred here beginning in the 1960s with fishes, insects, and mollusks, and ending with the sponges in 2003. In addition to the Hancock collections, research expeditions, field work by Museum staff, and donations from many sources have contributed to the vast holdings and keep adding to the breadth of the collections and the documentation of the earth's biodiversity.
Many invertebrates are soft bodied and are best stored “wet-preserved” in alcohol. Some hard-bodied animals such as sea stars and crabs may be stored dry. The work of the Marine Biodiversity Center is centered on curation of the specimens, but the specimens are only as valuable as their information, which we also curate. Some of the information about the collections can be viewed on a world map (or as a list). This information includes collection locations, collection methods, environmental parameters, field notes, maps, publications based on the specimens, photographs, and any other data that are associated with the specimens themselves.