Invertebrates / Arthropods -
Crustaceans, Spiders, Myriapods, Insects
(Hall 24)

Arthropods are an extraordinarily successful animal phylum that has colonized all habitats.

 In the display cases along the walls, crustaceans, spiders and their relatives, and myriapods can be seen. The enormous variety of insects makes up the largest part of the hall’s display. The systematic presentation of today’s living insects shows the path of evolution.

The Collection

Arthropods comprise hexapods (insects), myriapods, arachnids and crustaceans. Their common features are an exoskeleton, a division of their bodies and special extremities.

The collection of the NHM Vienna houses more than 12 million individuals in the (non-public) collections. A few thousand of those are on display, which is less than 1% of the scientific collection.

The scientific collection of myriapods of the NHM Vienna is one of the three largest collections in the world.



Ernst Grundmann Ladybird Collection
Anatis ocellata. Coccinellidae. Special collection of Ernst Grundmann. 1970.
Meticulously kept private collections, such as Ernst Grundmann’s special collection of ladybugs, are invaluable for research at natural history museums.
Common Housefly
Musca domestica. Gypsum plaster cast. Circa 1950.
Unlike the often huge plastic models that are common today, this detailed historic replica of a common housefly, magnified 65 times, is unique.
Diorama of a Wetlands Pond
Entomology Department of the NHM. 2004.
Many museums have habitat representations. Adaptation to historic surroundings and the visual linking of diorama and showcase, however, are unique.
Whip Spider
Charinus ioanniticus. Rhodes, Greece. 1959.
This whip spider is the first and only species of whip spider that has been found in Europe. It was discovered by an NHM Vienna researcher in 1959.
Sea Spider with young
Nymphon robustum. Jan Mayen Island in the Greenland Sea, Norway. 1885.
Sea spiders are some of the most enigmatic animals; their classification is unclear to this day. In particular, males with their young are rarely seen in a museum.

Hall 24

Arthropods – Crustaceans, Spiders and their Relatives, Myriapods, Insects

The display cases 1-16 and 18-20 show crustaceans. They live in the sea, in freshwater, and on land; there are tiny planktonic animals such as the water fleas, but also armored giants such as the sea spiders.
The coconut crab, robber crab, or palm thief (Birgus latro) is a tropical decapod that has adapted to terrestrial life.
The boxer crab or pom-pom crab (Lybia tesselata) grabs a sea anemone and thrusts it toward an aggressor, when in danger (thus the name). The predator is usually deterred by the poisonous stinging tentacles, and flees.
Myriapods (display case 17) can be recognized by their many legs. The Amazonian or Peruvian giant centipede (Scolopendra gigantea) lives in tropical Brazil and hunts insects, frogs, small reptiles, and even mice at night. It kills its prey by biting strongly with its maxillipeds, which are connected to large poison glands.

The display cases 21-25 and 25A show spiders and their relatives (arachnids). This group includes, among others, horseshoe crabs, scorpions, true spiders, pseudoscorpions, harvestmen, and mites, which include ticks.


Horseshoe crabs (Xiphosura) are not crustaceans at all, but belong to the arachnids. These primitive sea-dwellers were widely distributed during the Paleozoic. Only four species exist today; they are living fossils. They live along the eastern coast of the United States and in Southeast Asia.
Scorpions (Scorpiones) are among the best known and most feared arachnids. They gasp their prey with their huge claws; the poison sting at the end of their tail is used only for defense.
Tarantulas or bird-eating spiders (Theraphosidae) are wrongly considered to be very venomous. Their poison is mostly rather weak; but the bite may cause a painful wound. They only rarely eat birds and prefer large insects and small amphibians.
With a body length of up to 4 cm, the south Russian tarantula (Lycosa singoriensis) is the largest spider in central Europe. A steppe animal, it lives in Austria mainly in the Seewinkel (Burgenland).
Garden spiders (Araneus) are among the best known spiders in Austria. They are easily recognized due to the cross-like pattern on their abdomen. The cross spider (Araneus diadematus) is the most common species of the group.
There are 30 species of black widow spiders world-wide; in Europe mainly the Mediterranean black widow spider (Latrodectes tredecimguttatus) is widely distributed in the Mediterranean area. It is a small black comb-footed-spider, which constructs its web close to the ground on plants and rocks.

The display cases 80-93 show beetles. Within the class of insects, the beetles (Coleoptera) are the largest order with more than 380,000 species. Every year hundreds of new species are described by scientists.

Great diving beetles (Dytiscus marginalis) are very skilled at both swimming and flying. The adult beetle as well as the larvae are carnivorous – with dagger-like mandibles.
Hercules beetles (Dynastes hercules) live in Central America and are one of the largest beetles in the world. They hold the record in weight-lifting: they are able to carry 850 times their body weight on their back!
The largest beetle in the world is the titan beetle (Titanus giganteus). It lives in the tropical rain forests of South America and can grow to a length of 20 cm.
The horned dung beetle (Copris lunaris) is easily recognized by its striking horn. In Austria its distribution is limited today to only a few locations.
Stag beetles (Lucanus cervus) are the largest European beetles. They can reach a length of 7 cm and are found mostly close to oaks. Male stag beetles are almost twice as large as females. Their mandibles have evolved into enormous “antlers”.
Butterflies and moths (Lepidoptera) – on display in the cases 108-121 – are the second-largest insect order, with almost 200,000 recorded species.
Many butterfly wings shine with striking iridescent colors. These structural colors are formed by interference of light and remain even after the death of the animal.
Birdwings (Ornithoptera) are the largest and most impressive butterflies. They live in New Guinea and on neighboring islands. Only the males have colorful wings.
Dipterans (Mosquitoes and Flies) are shown in the display cases 101-104. The dipterans (Diptera) include mosquitoes, blowflies, houseflies, fruit flies, flesh flies, hover flies, robber flies, horseflies, and tsetse flies.


Fleas (Siphonaptera, display case 107) can jump more than 20 cm high and a distance of 35 cm. When one considers the ratio of body size to jumping distance, it becomes evident that they are remarkable performers.
Hymenopterans (display cases 94-100) are bees, wasps and ants.
Honey bees (Apis mellifera) are social insects. A bee colony in early summer consists of a queen and 40,000-80,000 workers, plus several hundred drones (male bees). During the summer there is a living bee colony in hall 24, from which bees fly out daily to the Volksgarten and the Burggarten, the parks next to the museum. Visitors can observe bees flying off and returning.

Hornets (Vespa crabro) belong to the paper wasps or yellowjackets (Vespidae). They live in colonies and survive only for one year.
The display cases 53 and 54 show dragonflies and damselflies (Odonata). They are predators, both as larvae and as adults. The larva’s mouth-parts take the form of a mask. Dragonflies are excellent flyers and have huge, spherical eyes.
Termites (Isoptera, display case 60) resemble ants, but are white. They live in a complex social hierarchy with thousands, often even millions of members. The king and the queen live permanently together and reproduce.
A highlight of the hall is a diorama that shows a riverbank segment from the Amazonian rain forest with its diversity of insect life. The South American Amazon habitats are those richest in species in the world. Masses of butterflies gather on sandbanks to take up water and mineral nutrients.