Archives of natural history, Volume 41 Pt 1 (2014)
The following papers and short notes have been formally accepted and published in Archives of natural history 41.1 in print and online in April 2014.
B. J. GILL: Charles Francis Adams: diary of a young American taxidermist visiting New Zealand, 1884–1887.
Y. SAMYN: Return to sender: Hydrozoa collected by Emperor Hirohito of Japan in the 1930s and studied in Brussels.
R. MIDDLETON: The Royal Horticultural Society’s 1864 botanical competition.
P. G. MOORE: Popularizing marine natural history in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Britain.
A. M. LUCAS & P. J. LUCAS: Natural history “collectors”: exploring the ambiguities.
A. G. KNOX: The first egg of Jerdon’s courser Rhinoptilus bitorquatus and a review of the early records of this species.
G. N. FOSTER & R. E. CLOSE: The entomologist David Sharp and his unwitting benefactor William Bontine.
H. FUNK: Describing plants in a new mode: the introduction of dichotomies into sixteenth-century botanical literature.
G. M. FELLERS: Animal taxa named for Rollo H. Beck.
I. SVANBERG & S. CIOS: Petrus Magni and the history of fresh-water aquaculture in the later Middle Ages.
C. J. BIDAU: The katydid that was: the tananá, stridulation, Henry Walter Bates and Charles Darwin.
S. L. OLSON: The early scientific history of Galapagos iguanas.
H. S. TORRENS: Michael Denis Crane (1946–2013).
K. D. HUSSEY: Ming the forgotten celebrity: a giant panda skull at the Royal College of Surgeons of England.
E. C. NELSON: The natural history interests of the Barrington family of Fassaroe, County Wicklow, Ireland.
P. DASZKIEWICZ & P. EDEL: The will of Ludwig Heinrich Bojanus (1776–1827), an interesting nineteenth-century natural history document.
R. B. WILLIAMS: An annotated catalogue of the marine biological paintings of Thomas Alan Stephenson – a fourth missing painting found.
R. M. PECK: Discovered in Philadelphia: a third set of Thomas Horsfield’s nature prints of plants from Java.
R. B. WILLIAMS: Another published letter by Philip Henry Gosse: a beluga in the English Channel.
E. C. NELSON: Additions to Philip Henry Gosse’s bibliography: letters to newspapers and horticultural periodicals 1864–1879.
Archives of natural history 40.2, p.369.
B. J. GILL: Charles Francis Adams: diary of a young American taxidermist visiting New Zealand, 1884–1887
In December 1884 Charles Francis Adams (1857–1893) left Illinois, USA, by train for San Francisco and crossed the Pacific by ship to work as taxidermist at Auckland Museum, New Zealand, until February 1887. He then went to Borneo via several New Zealand ports, Melbourne and Batavia (Jakarta). This paper concerns a diary by Adams that gives a daily account of his trip to Auckland and the first six months of his employment (from January to July 1885). In this period Adams set up a workshop and diligently prepared specimens (at least 124 birds, fish, reptiles and marine invertebrates). The diary continues with three reports of trips Adams made from Auckland to Cuvier Island (November 1886), Karewa Island (December 1886) and White Island (date not stated), which are important early descriptive accounts of these small offshore islands. Events after leaving Auckland are covered discontinuously and the diary ends with part of the ship’s passage through the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia), apparently in April 1887. Adams’s diary is important in giving a detailed account of a taxidermist’s working life, and in helping to document the early years of Auckland Museum’s occupation of the Princes Street building.
YVES SAMYN: Return to sender: Hydrozoa collected by Emperor Hirohito of Japan in the 1930s and studied in Brussels
A small number of Hydrozoa specimens, collected by Emperor Hirohito of Japan in Sagami Bay in the 1930s, was re-discovered in the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences in Brussels. The history of the collection is described here; part of it has been returned to the reference collection of the Showa Memorial Institute in Japan.
RICHARD MIDDLETON: The Royal Horticultural Society’s 1864 botanical competition
The Royal Horticultural Society’s botanical competition of 1864 aroused an early stirring of concern for the need for botanical conservation in Britain. Competitors were required to submit a set of pressed plants collected from a single British county and although the organizer’s intention was to encourage study of British plants amongst “all classes”, this laudable aim provoked an angry response from both professional and amateur botanists who claimed that it would encourage the extirpation of rare taxa. A compromise was reached and the competition rules were modified to restrict the number of plants that could be submitted and to discourage the collection of those that were rare. An analysis of the 39 medallists shows that they were equally divided between men and women and that the women were likely to be young, affluent and unmarried but that the men were drawn from a much wider demographic and social class. It is concluded that the fears of damage by large numbers of unprincipled competitors were unfounded but that the aims of the Royal Horticultural Society were also largely unmet with the majority of competitors being from professional backgrounds rather than the artisans who were to be encouraged.
P. G. MOORE: Popularizing marine natural history in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Britain
The literary and pedagogic style of books popularizing marine natural history for the British public shifted during the nineteenth century. Previously, natural history books had been written largely by men, with notable exceptions like Isabella Gifford, Mary Gatty and Mary Roberts. Gentlemen naturalists tended to be clerics or medics; educated men conventionally viewing their interest as revelatory of the Divine in nature. Typically, women were less well educated than men but some from clerical backgrounds, having better access to learning, became significant popularizers of natural history. Gosse’s works promoting aquaria and “rock-pooling” (typically among the middles classes), helped to develop a ready market for the plethora of popular seashore books appearing in the 1850s; with coastal access being facilitated by expansion of the railways. Controversies concerning evolution rarely penetrated works aimed at a popular readership. However, the style adopted by marine natural history writers had changed noticeably by the end of the nineteenth century. The earlier conversational dialogue or narrative forms gave way to a more terse scientific style, omitting references to the Divine. Evolutionary ideas were affecting populist texts on littoral natural history, even if only covertly.
Image caption: ‘Common objects on the sea shore’. John Leech, Punch, 1857.
A. M. LUCAS and P. J. LUCAS: Natural history “collectors”: exploring the ambiguities
There is more than one sense in which “collector” can refer to the roles of participants in describing the natural world. Examples of botanical and zoological collectors and collections demonstrate these senses, which have been confused in the literature. Considering the provenance of specimens in a supply chain may be a more productive approach than attempting to categorise actors in that chain.
ALAN G. KNOX: The first egg of Jerdon’s courser Rhinoptilus bitorquatus and a review of the early records of this species
For most of the twentieth century, Jerdon’s courser (Rhinoptilus bitorquatus) was thought to be extinct until it was rediscovered in 1986. Since then, despite much research, the bird remains poorly known. A Critically Endangered southern Indian endemic, recorded from a restricted area of about 50 square kilometres, its nocturnal habits, infrequent vocalizations, scrub-jungle habitat and low population size make it difficult to observe. Almost nothing is known about its breeding or ecology. Its nest has never been seen by an ornithologist. The first known egg of the species was recently discovered in a collection at the University of Aberdeen and its identity confirmed by DNA analysis. It had been collected by Ernest Gilbert Meaton, a veterinary surgeon at the Kolar Gold Fields, east of Bangalore. He probably obtained it in 1917, within 100 km of Kolar. Meaton’s egg collection was purchased by George Falconer Rose, a successful expatriate Scot working in Calcutta, and given to Aberdeen Grammar School in 1919. In the 1970s, the school gave the collection to the University of Aberdeen, where the egg was discovered in 2008. This paper collates and reviews the early records of Jerdon’s courser and examines the provenance of the egg. The type specimen of the courser now appears to be lost, but five other specimens exist in collections.
G. N. FOSTER and R. E. CLOSE: The entomologist David Sharp and his unwitting benefactor William Bontine
David Sharp (1840–1922) was one of Britain’s most eminent entomologists. He was qualified as a medical doctor and, from 1867 to 1883, his sole patient was a member of the Scottish nobility who had been declared insane. This was one of Sharp’s most productive periods as an entomologist during which he would have amassed a significant amount of money, allowing him to continue to practise entomology well into the twentieth century.
HOLGER FUNK: Describing plants in a new mode: the introduction of dichotomies into sixteenth-century botanical literature
The use of dichotomous tables to identify a plant and to visualize inter-relationships and differences between plants was commonly credited to the first edition of Flore françoise by Jean-Baptiste Lamarck published in 1778. However, evidence for an origin of this technique in the seventeenth and sixteenth century also exists. The present paper scrutinizes the extra-botanical origin of dichotomous tables and suggests the first half of the sixteenth century as the time when they were introduced into botanical writings. Bracketed outlines, the common format of such dichotomous tables, evolved from a typographical artifice into a heuristic instrument for reasoning methodologically about plant characteristics (“differentiae”) and finally into a means of describing and ordering the plants themselves in a new manner.
GARY M. FELLERS: Animal taxa named for Rollo H. Beck
Rollo Howard Beck (1870–1950) was a professional bird collector who spent most of his career on expeditions to the Channel Islands off southern California, the Galápagos Islands, South America, the South Pacific, and the Caribbean. Some of the expeditions lasted as long as ten years during which time he and his wife, Ida, were often working in primitive conditions on sailing vessels or camps set up on shore. Throughout these expeditions, Beck collected specimens for the California Academy of Sciences, the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology at Berkeley (California), the American Museum of Natural History, and the Walter Rothschild Museum at Tring, England. Beck was one of the premier collectors of his time and his contributions were recognized by having 17 taxa named becki in his honor. Of these taxa, Beck collected 15 of the type specimens.
INGVAR SVANBERG and STANISŁAW CIOS: Petrus Magni and the history of fresh-water aquaculture in the later Middle Ages
In 1520 the Bridgettine priest Petrus Magni (1460–1534), wrote a manual on agriculture. The manuscript, in Late Old Swedish, is to a large extent taken from Columella’s De re rustica with many additions. At the end of the manual there is a brief chapter on making and keeping ponds for crucian carp (Carassius carassius) and tench (Tinca tinca). Aquaculture, with keeping and breeding fish in artificial ponds, was probably an innovation that became established in secular and monastic environments in Sweden in the fifteenth century. The text is to some extent based on Petrus’s own experience and provides rare knowledge of pond-breeding of cyprinids in Scandinavia in late Medieval times. Petrus’s account is the oldest known manual on fish-breeding in northern Europe. This brief manual is compared with manuals on fish culture by the Bohemian Bishop Janus Dubravius (1486–1553) and Polish nobleman Olbrycht Strumieński (d. 1609) published in 1547 and 1573 respectively.
CLAUDIO J. BIDAU: The katydid that was: the tananá, stridulation, Henry Walter Bates and Charles Darwin
The Amazonian bush-cricket or katydid, Thliboscelus hypericifolius (Orthoptera: Tettigoniidae: Pseudophyllinae), called tananá by the natives was reported to have a song so beautiful that they were kept in cages for the pleasure of listening to the melodious sound. The interchange of letters between Henry Walter Bates and Charles Darwin regarding the tananá and the issue of stridulation in Orthoptera indicates how this mysterious insect, which seems to be very rare, contributed to the theory of sexual selection developed by Darwin.
STORRS L. OLSON: The early scientific history of Galapagos iguanas
The oldest known specimen of Galapagos marine iguana (Amblyrhynchus cristatus), now in the University Museum, Oxford, was originally thought to have come from Mexico. A plausible history of its origin with sealers in the Galapagos Islands about 1824 and transportation to and across Mexico is advanced. The naturalists David Douglas and John Scouler, on James (Santiago) Island in January 1825, encountered and attempted unsuccessfully to preserve specimens of the land iguana (Conolophus subcristatus) but only a Scouler specimen of marine iguana made it back to England, and it has since disappeared. Published and previously unpublished journal entries from the voyage of HMS Blonde, which had shore parties at Albemarle (Isabela) and Narborough (Fernandina) islands in March 1825, establish that the specimens on which the original description of Amblyrhynchus (later Conolophus) subcristatus J. E. Gray, 1831, was based originated in the voyage of the Blonde. Banks Bay, Albemarle Island, is here designated as the type locality for Conolophus subcristatus. Specimens of the marine iguana were also brought back by the Blonde. The published accounts of Scouler and the voyage of the Blonde established the Galapagos as the true home of the marine iguana well before the return of Charles Darwin and HMS Beagle in 1836.