Molluscs are an animal group that includes gastropods, bivalves, cephalopods, chitons, scaphopods, monoplacophorans and aplacophorans. They have evolved more than 550 million years ago and even then demonstrated a great diversity. Over time, such diversity has grown to about 120 000 living and over 40 000 extinct molluscs (fossils) recently known, making molluscs, after insects, the most abundant group of animals. In addition to their abundance, molluscs are very diverse in colour, size and lifestyle. They live in a wide variety of habitats: in marine habitats, from shores up to the greatest depths, in aquatic and terrestric ecosystems and in underground habitats. Molluscs are absent in some deserts and on mountains above 5,000 meters asl.
The importance of molluscs in natural ecosystems is immense: they feed on different types of food; they represent a source of food for a large number of other animal species, and therefore represent a key component of food webs in nature. To humans, molluscs are a source of food since the origin of humankind. Molluscs have been used to make simple tools, ornaments, jewellery, but also for various ritual purposes. Shells of some molluscs were the “oldest known coins” – the forerunner of today's money. Today, because of their great diversity, variety, distribution, availability and the existence of many rare and less known species, molluscs’ shells are a subject of collecting and research for thousands of collectors and scientists worldwide. Some of the world's largest museum collections as well as some private collections contain millions of specimens of molluscs. In Croatia, some museums keep large malacology collections too, but a particular value, due to its origin and richness is the one kept in the Franciscan monastery in Makarska.
The collection originated on shells collected across the shores of Makarska in October 1959. Collecting was first organized by fra Jure Radić, his associates nun Marija Edita Šolić, fra Frane Carev and other brothers from the monastery. The collection was presented to the public in theold Franciscan church in November 1959. Thanks to the help of local fishermenthe collection started to grow rapidly. Beside donors, many private collectors exchanged specimens from their countries for the Adriatic molluscs. Since April 30th, 1963 the collection was displayed at the same place as it is today as the permanent exhibition entitled “Malacological Museum”.
To the present day, hundreds of thousands of visitors have visited the Malacology collection in the monastery, spreading the good voice worldwide. Sixty years from opening, in 2018, the exhibition rooms of the Malacology collection went through restoration and reconstruction, but the exhibition remained the place of education for schoolchildren, locals and tourists that spend their vacation in Makarska. With occasional shell donations, the collection still grows and in the future,it will certainly present a numerous previously un-exhibited molluscs. As well as since its first opening, this permanent exhibition will remain a spot where people can admire the diversity and perfection of this particularpart of nature.
IZVOR: fra Ante Čovo