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BioMineral - Pearl, Spiral, Shell

Special exhibition from 30th July 2021 through 27th February 2022

Considering the high diversity of snails, the elegance of the Nautilus, but also the massive size and longevity of oysters, the shells of the group Mollusca have always been fascinating for human observers of nature, not only due to aesthetic reasons (...their variegated shapes and colouration patterns...), but also as a subject of scientific study. What are shalls consisting of? How does the attractive spiral shape form? Why are shells so diverse in appearance? - These questions are addressed and answered in the new special exhibition under the headline "BioMinerals".

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Similar to the bones and teeth of vertebrates, mollusc shells are composed of tiny crystals of a biomineral - in association with organic compounds. Origin, evolution, occurrence, function of biominerals and their formation by organisms (= the process of biomineralisation) are ilustrated in detail, but also the causes and limits of shape variability in shells and likewise skeletons, which are made up of biominerals, are thoroughly addressed.

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The exhibition features more than 600 specimens, including lifelike models of certain peculiar molluscs and many preparates of shelled animals that range from the Cambrian (541-485 million years ago) to the present. By means of an interactive computer program, visitors may create different shall shapes in a virtual 3D space. Apart from the many collection specimens of present-day and extinct shell-forming organisms, the visitors are invited to observe living animals that form biominerals, such as bivalves, snails, sea urchins and corals, in our saltwater aquarium.

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The final part of exhibition is dedicated to the scientific, economomical and cultural importance of mollusc shells and provides an answer to the question why biominerals (and the process of biomineralisation) are relevant to us human beings.