The great white shark amongst sting rays and other marine specimens on display at the Iziko South African Museum.


Marine mammals on view in the whale well at the Iziko South African Museum. (c) iziko Museums of South Africa. 


Fish display at the Iziko South African Museum. (c) Iziko Museums of South Africa


Archealogical remains (with replicas) of marine mammals, on display at the Iziko South African Museum. (c) Iziko Museums of South Africa. 

Marine Biology collections

South Africa is the third most biodiverse country in the world. The marine biology collections at Iziko, considered to be amongst the best in the world, reflect that diversity. The Iziko Marine Biology collections was established in 1896, then made up primarily of material donated by early European researchers.  Since then, the collection has grown in scale and prestige, thanks in large part to collaborations with universities, commercial fishing companies, government departments and the general public, who still donate specimens today.

Local and international scientists and students access the collections for research. The collections include wet specimens, dry specimens and slides. Recently there has been a drive to digitise these collections and disseminate the knowledge via web-based platforms.

The Marine Biology Collections cover three areas namely marine invertebrates, marine vertebrates and marine mammals. They include an excellent dry mollusc collection and a small fish osteology collection. 


  • Digitise: Converting images, sounds and videos into digital format that can easily be viewed on a computer.

  • Marine invertebrates: Animals that live in the ocean and have no spines or backbones.

  • Marine vertebrates: Animals that live in the ocean and have internal skeletons.

  • Marine mammals: Mammals are a warm-blooded vertebrate animals living in the ocean. They are distinguished by the possession of hair or fur, the secretion of milk by females for the nourishment of young, and (typically) the birth of live young.

  • Molluscs: A large group of marine invertebrates that include mussels, snails and octopus, known for their soft bodies and (mostly) hard shells.

  • Osteology: The study of the bones of an organism.


Wayne Florence
Email: wflorence@iziko.org.za
Telephone: +27 (0) 21 481 3919

Dylan Clarke
Email: dclarke@iziko.org.za
Telephone: +27 (0) 21 481 3859