Archives of natural history, Volume 37, No. 1 (March 2010)
The Society has members worldwide, and the diversity of the papers published in the issue reflects this: stone loaches in Swedish ponds; natural history exchanges between New Zealand and Italy; rattlesnake eggs in Minnesota; an egg collected by Charles Darwin “discovered” in Cambridge; a golden monkey from Brazil – Marcgrave’s capuchin – depicted in an Italian fresco not long after European discovery of South America; and, the experiences of a Spanish naturalist in London’s Natural History Museum.
Archives of natural history, Volume 37, No. 1 Book Reviews
BOOK REVIEWS (in publication order)
KARSSEN, G., Life and work of Dr Johannes Govertus de Man (1850–1930), a Crustacea and Nematoda specialist. Brill Academic Publisher, Leiden: 2006.
GERHARD C. CADÉE
O’NEILL, J. and McLEAN, E. P., Peter Collinson and the eighteenth-century natural history exchange. American Philosophical Society, Philadelphia, 2008 (Memoirs of the American Philosophical Society 263).
E. CHARLES NELSON
WALKER, C. F., Shaky colonialism: The 1746 earthquake-tsunami in Lima, Peru, and its long aftermath. Durham, Duke University Press: 2008.
RUDWICK, M. J. S., Worlds before Adam. The reconstruction of geohistory in the age of reform. University of Chicago Press, Chicago & London: 2008.
PATRICK N. WYSE JACKSON
ELSDON-BAKER, F., The selfish genius: how Richard Dawkins rewrote Darwin’s legacy. Icon Books, London: 2009.
PETER J. BOWLER
CLARK, J. F. M., Bugs and the Victorians. Yale University Press, London: 2009.
CARROLL, V., Science and eccentricity: collecting, writing and performing science for early nineteenth-century audiences. Pickering & Chatto, London: 2008.
GILBERT, P. A source book for biographical literature on entomologists. Backhuys Publishers, Leiden: 2007.
J. F. M. CLARK
BERRY, R. J., Islands. (The New Naturalist Library series no. 109.) Collins, London: 2009.
MORSE, D. D. and DANAHAY, M. A. (editors), Victorian animal dreams: representations of animals in Victorian literature and culture. Aldershot, Ashgate: 2007.
AYRES, P., The aliveness of plants: the Darwins at the dawn of plant science. Pickering & Chatto, London: 2008.
MEISEN, L., Die Charakterisierung der Tiere in Buffons Histoire naturelle. Königshausen and Neumann, Würzburg: 2008.
SCHULZE, A., “Belehrung und Unterhaltung”: Brehms Tierleben im Spannungsfeld von Empirie und Fiktion. Herbert Utz, Munich: 2009.
READER, J., The untold history of the potato. Vintage, London. 2009.
E. CHARLES NELSON
Archives of natural history, Volume 37, No. 1 (April 2010) Abstracts
“Un mes en Londres”: Angel Cabrera Latorre at the British Museum (Natural History) and the launch of an international career
Angel Cabrera Latorre (1879–1960) was the authority on mammalian studies in Spain during the early twentieth century. Even though his first professional progress at the Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales in Madrid were driven by the former naturalists of Comisión Científica al Pacífico (1862–1866), nevertheless Oldfield Thomas (1858–1929) acted as his mentor. Cabrera’s mastery was learned at the British Museum (Natural History) in London where he spent a month during 1910. After returning to Madrid, Cabrera introduced in a short time several modifications in the vertebrate collections, museum’s display and nomenclature, and in 1914 contributed the volume about mammals to Fauna Ibérica. Cabrera’s Mamiferos remains a landmark in Iberian faunal studies.
KEY WORDS: Fauna Ibérica – mammals – Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales – Oldfield Thomas – Comisión Científica al Pacífico.
Rattlesnake eggs and the passing of a torch in Winona County, Minnesota
Although rattlesnakes give birth to living young, the belief that they lay eggs persisted in the midwestern United States until the end of the nineteenth century. This is illustrated by the writings of two prominent chroniclers of natural history in early Winona, a Mississippi River town in southeastern Minnesota. Lafayette Bunnell’s accounts of a massacre of timber rattlesnakes (Crotalus horridus) included statements that a large number of their eggs were also destroyed. The college professor John Holzinger, however, dissected a female rattlesnake to reveal late-term embryos and suggested that the eggs found in the vicinity of rattlesnakes were laid by other species of snakes that share their dens.
KEY WORDS: Crotalidae – Crotalus horridus – timber rattlesnake – Lafayette Bunnell – John Holzinger.
The West of Scotland Regional Dredging Committee of the BAAS: Firth of Clyde dredging activities and participants’ circumstances impinging thereon (1834–1856)
Insights gained into the activities of the West of Scotland Regional Dredging Committee of the British Association for the Advancement of Science (BAAS): a committee comprising the Reverend Dr Charles Popham Miles (Chairman), Dr Robert Kaye Greville, Professor John Hutton Balfour and Thomas Campbell Eyton, are presented. Based particularly on previously unreported correspondence between Miles and Balfour, and between Greville and Balfour that is housed in the archives of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, the backgrounds of these persons (like their shared religious leanings) are illuminated and their practical experiences of dredging in the Firth of Clyde, notably in Lamlash Bay (Isle of Arran), brought into focus. Economic aspects relating to the costs of dredging, the finances of participants and the adequacy of the initial BAAS grant are highlighted and other social aspects commented upon. There is no known surviving contemporary account of the interactions between this network of BAAS dredging committee members, so this correspondence seemingly remains, to date, the only information that is available as primary sources.
KEY WORDS: Charles Popham Miles – Robert Kaye Greville – John Hutton Balfour – Thomas Campbell Eyton – economics – religion – social networks – Lamlash Bay.
History and dating of the publication of the Philadelphia (1822) and London (1823) editions of Edwin James’s Account of an expedition from Pittsburgh to the Rocky Mountains
The public record of Major Stephen H. Long’s 1819–1820 exploration of the American north-west, Account of an expedition from Pittsburgh to the Rocky Mountains, compiled by Edwin James, contains valuable contributions regarding the natural landscapes, native peoples and wildlife of a mostly unexplored region of the American west compiled from the notes of some of America’s foremost naturalists, and it includes the first descriptions of 67 new species. The original plan was to publish the Account in Philadelphia and London simultaneously, yet these two editions differ substantially in ways that are relevant to the taxonomic contributions in the work. It is generally assumed that the Philadelphia edition was published in early January 1823 and was available first, but little substantive evidence has been presented to support its priority over the London edition. Review of contemporary correspondence and periodicals indicates the Philadelphia edition was available and for sale on 31 December 1822, whereas the London edition was available in late February 1823. As previously assumed by most sources, the Philadelphia edition has priority of publication and is the authority for most species names. Its correct year of publication, however, is 1822 rather than 1823.
KEY WORDS: Stephen Harriman Long – Thomas Say– North America – exploration – nomenclature – publication history – taxonomy.
Anthony Alder (1838–1915), Queensland taxidermist and bird painter
Anthony Alder was born into a family of taxidermists and naturalists and was a talented and dedicated taxidermist and bird painter. He first visited Queensland in the 1860s collecting natural history specimens in remote Cape York Peninsula at the beginning of settlement there. He returned to England to carry on the family taxidermy business, but returned to Queensland in 1875 and established as a taxidermist in Brisbane. Except for a short period as a hotel proprietor, Alder operated continuously as a commercial taxidermist until 1907 when he achieved his long-held wish to be employed as taxidermist in the Queensland Museum. He exhibited his taxidermic work widely at the Queensland stands of major international exhibitions of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the exhibits generally characterized by his penchant for the dramatic and the anthropocentric. The style and design of his oil paintings of Queensland birds are reflective of his taxidermic perspective, either as anthropocentric expressions of bird personalities, or as museum displays of bird diversity. Alder was the only significant local painter of Queensland birds in the late nineteenth century and his work is not only of historical significance, but is also aesthetically appealing in the richness of its colour and the taxidermic basis of its design.
KEY WORDS: taxidermy – Cape York Peninsula – international exhibitions – Brisbane – Queensland Museum.
“The mighty cassowary”: the discovery and demise of the King Island emu
Nicolas Baudin’s 1800–1804 voyage was the only scientific expedition to collect specimens of the dwarf emu (Dromaius ater) endemic to King Island, Bass Strait, Australia. The expedition’s naturalist, François Péron, documented the only detailed, contemporaneous description of the life history of the bird, and the artist Charles-Alexandre Lesueur made the only visual record of a living specimen. Hunted to extinction by 1805, the King Island emu remains relatively unfamiliar. It is ironic that a bird collected as part of one of the most ambitious ordering enterprises in early nineteenth-century science – a quest for intellectual empire – has been more or less forgotten.
This paper discusses how human error, assumption, imagination and circumstance hampered recognition and understanding of the King Island emu. Poor record-keeping led to the confusion of this species with other taxa, including the Australian emu and a dwarf species restricted to Kangaroo Island, contributing to the epistemological loss of the species. The expedition’s agenda was equally influential in the perception and documentation of the species, with consequences for its conservation in the wild. The paper also argues that as a symbolic rather than a scientific record, Lesueur’s illustration fostered inaccuracies in later descriptions of the King Island emu, especially when the image was taken out of context, subjected to the vagaries of nineteenth-century printing techniques and reproduced in more recent ornithological literature. Rather than increasing knowledge about this species, the Baudin expedition and its literature contributed, albeit unwittingly, to the King Island emu’s textual and literal extinction.
KEY WORDS: Dromaius ater – Nicolas Baudin – François Péron – Charles-Alexandre Lesueur – Australia – ornithological illustration – extinction.
The first record of Marcgrave’s capuchin in Europe: South American monkeys in Italy during the early sixteenth century
Around the end of the second decade of the sixteenth century, in the Villa Medici of Poggio a Caiano in the vicinity of Florence, the Florentine artist Andrea del Sarto painted a great fresco, commissioned by Pope Leo X in honour of his late father, Lorenzo de’ Medici. This fresco contains one of the earliest representations in Europe of a living South American primate, which can easily be identified as Marcgrave’s capuchin, Cebus flavius (Schreber, 1774). The appearance is so accurate that we can assume that the painter was familiar with the animal, and may even have used a live monkey as a model. Marcgrave’s capuchin is a taxon that was recently rediscovered in Brazil, where it has been found in fragments of the Atlantic Forest in the states of Rio Grande do Norte, Pernambuco, Alagoas and Paraíba. The portrayal of this species in the early sixteenth-century decoration of Poggio a Caiano raises interesting questions about the popularity of Brazilian primates in European artistic and scientific circles from the time of the discovery of the New World, and about the rapidity of the initial anthropogenic diffusion of some of these animals beyond their homeland.
Entorno do fim da segunda década do século dezesseis, na Villa Médici de Poggio a Caiano, nas proximidade de Florência, o artista florentino Andréa Del Sarto pintou um grande fresco, encomendado pelo Papa Leon X em gloria do falecido pai Lorenzo de’ Médici. Este fresco contem uma das primeiras imagens de um primata da América do Sul na Europa. Este primata pode ser facilmente identificado com o macaco-prego de Marcgrave Cebus flavius (Schreber, 1774). A representação da espécie è tão acurada que podemos supor que o pintor tinha uma boa familiaridade com o animal pintado e provavelmente pode haver usado modelos vivos. O macaco-prego de Marcgrave è um táxon redescoberto até pouco tempo no Brasil em fragmentos remanescentes da Mata Atlântica (Estados de Rio Grande do Norte, Pernambuco, Alagoas e Paraíba). O retrato desta espécie nas pinturas do século dezesseis a Poggio a Caiano levanta interessantes perguntas sobre a popularidade dos primatas brasileiro nos circuitos artísticos e cientificos da Europa desde o momento da descoberta do Novo Mundo e sobre a inicial difusão antropogénica desses animais tão longe da terra nativa.
KEY WORDS: Platyrrhini – Cebus flavius – mammals – ethnozoology – artistic representation.
Ferdinand von Mueller’s interactions with Charles Darwin and his response to Darwinism
Although Ferdinand Mueller (later von Mueller), Government Botanist of Victoria, opposed Darwin’s theories when On the origin of species was published, there has been little detailed study of the nature of Mueller’s opposition from 1860, when he received a presentation copy of Origin, to his death in 1896. Analysis of Mueller’s correspondence and publications shows that he remained a theist and misunderstood key aspects of Darwin’s theory. However, Mueller did come to accept that natural selection could operate within a species, although never accepting it could produce speciation. Despite these differences he retained a cordial relationship with Darwin.
KEY WORDS: evolution – natural selection – botany – Chatham Islands – Australia.
The Cheeseman–Giglioli correspondence, and museum exchanges between Auckland and Florence, 1877–1904
Letters between Thomas Frederic Cheeseman of Auckland Museum (New Zealand) and Enrico Hillyer Giglioli of the Florence Natural History Museum (Italy) spanning 27 years (1877–1904), document repeated exchanges of natural history and ethnographic objects (consignments received at Florence in 1879, 1885, 1887, 1890, about 1895 and 1899, and at Auckland in 1882, 1888, 1891, 1896 and 1904). Extracts from the correspondence are used to give a chronological account of the transactions as a detailed case-study of a nineteenth century museum exchange between institutions half a world apart. Emphasis is given to land vertebrates, of which some 150 New Zealand birds were sent to Florence, and more than 600 Italian and foreign birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians were sent to Auckland. Giglioli especially sought Maori and Pacific ethnographic items and persistently requested these. He could offer royal acknowledgement of Cheeseman’s efforts, and the latter received a Galileian silver medal of merit from the Florence Faculty of Sciences in 1887. The exchanges show what could be achieved over time by relatively few letters, despite the slow postal service, the need for agents, and the vagaries of freighting by sailing ship and steamer that included port strikes, unscheduled transhipment and the loss of ethnographic items by pillage en route.
KEY WORDS: Firenze – Italy – New Zealand – bird specimens – mammal specimens – ethnographic objects.
Stone loach in Stockholm, Sweden, and royal fish-ponds in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries
The stone loach (Barbatula barbatula) occurs in three main areas in Sweden. In the north, it is found in Lapland in the River Torneälven. In the south, it is found in Skåne. There are also two populations near the cities of Stockholm and Nyköping. New data suggest that these two populations originate from fish that were kept in ponds. In the 1740s King Frederick I is said to have released stone loaches from German sources in Lake Mälaren, but this cannot explain its occurrence in Igelbäcken near Stockholm. There is also reason to believe that it was kept in ponds at the royal castle Ulriksdal in the mid-eighteenth century. The fish was possibly imported from the king’s native Germany, to be eaten as a delicacy. However, historical records tell of pond-keeping of stone loach by the Royal court in the Stockholm area during the 1680s.
KEY WORDS: Barbatula barbatula – introduced species – food.