Tag Archives: collections

MZSP collection

Cavallari et al. just published a review on the collection of the Sao Paulo Museu de Zoologia.


“The Mollusca Collection of the University of São Paulo Museum of Zoology is a secular assemblage, possibly one of the largest in Latin America, reaching a total of 123,000 lots and over 1.2 million specimens. Its coverage in terms of geography and biodiversity encompasses the entire Brazilian territory and over 130 countries, and its specimens are the starting point for important studies in the field of Malacology. In this study, numbers, curatorial aspects and the Collection’s role in education, research and extension are addressed. Challenges and future prospects are also presented and discussed”.

In the discussion attention is given to the gaps in the territorial coverage of the collection and the need for curatorial attention of this huge collection in a time of diminishing financial support for basic research in zoology and taxonomy.

Cavallari, D.C. et al., 2016. The mollusk collection of University of São Paulo Museum of Zoology: an overview and perspectives. – Arquivos de Ciências do Mar 49 (Suppl.): 40–45.

More on Madrid

Nearly at the end of my visit in Madrid, it’s time to show a little more. The museum is in a relatively old building, but the exhibition part is nice (although without Dino’s ;-), and the exhibition even starts outside with an artistic interpretation of part of the museum’s collection. I have chosen to show you a snail of course…

2016-05-24 08.22.46 2016-05-24 08.20.10 2016-05-24 08.19.53

Ignoring the obvious errors in the name, it’s at least a way to give the public a preview of what’s inside.

Today I gave, as part of my Synthesys visit, a presentation. The topic was “Historical collections and ancient science networks”. See the PDF CCP_ancient science networks. Also a photographer came, so I suppose they want to show off their Synthesys visitors somehow; anyhow, below you see me with my host Rafael Araujo in the storage room of the terrestrial molluscs with part of the material collected by the Comisión Cientifica del Pacifico. All 230, earlier recognised lots have been revised, but on my way I also found a considerable number of additional lots, included some overlooked type material. In due time it will result in another manuscript.

Araujo y Bram_2

So, for several reasons it was a most enjoyable and productive stay…


The importance of historical collections

During the 19th century several amateur conchologists have made interesting collections which – after their death – have either been donated to museums, been auctioned or sold, or have disappeared. Often their fate has not been well documented.

One of these 19th century collectors was Miss Janet E. Linter (1844-1909), who lived in Twickenham near London. Hardly anything is known about this lady-conchologist (a rare combination during her time), with only two very brief death notices being published after her death (Anonymous, 1909; E.A. Smith, 1910). Smith remarked that she had been a member of the Malacological Society of London since 1895, and added “of a retiring disposition Miss Linter did not attend the meetings of the Society, and consequently was not known personally to many of the members. She was, however, an enthusiastic collector, and her cabinets contained very many rare and interesting species, more especially of land shells. Many of these came from the collections made in India by W. Theobald and Colonel Skinner”.
Tomlin (1949) mentioned that her collection was sold in 1909; Dance (1966) listed her collection as being in the Exeter museum.

I came across her name several times. First, G.B. Sowerby III gave her an eponym in 1890 by describing Bulimus fulminates linterae from Mount Roraima on the border of Venezuela and Guyana [now Plekocheilus (P.) linterae]. It is likely that he knew this lady personally and saw her collection. Furthermore she was a correspondent of Dautzenberg and received many reprints of his papers (Breure, 2015; Breure, unpublished data). The obituary in The Nautilus signals she was well-known among American conchologists too.

linter coll copy

Last week I received some messages from Graham Oliver (Cardiff Museum), who visited the museum in Exeter and inspected the Linter collection, which is still kept separate. He wrote “Her shells seem in very good condition and from many rather unusual places. (…) This collection is rather large and primarily of land snails for all over the world. There are significant holdings from Pacific Islands, S. America, India, Africa and Australasia. She began by acquiring the Skinner and Theobald collections so very strong in Indian subcontinent material. (…) The collection has been in Exeter since 1902!”. He asked for my opinion about the South American part of the Linter collection, containing over 400 lots. I noticed several rare species, one of which  is very interesting for a work in progress; more about it in a next post.

Finally, it is interesting that Graham noticed on one of the labels the price Miss Linter paid for a shell during an auction: “One [label] indicates that she bought shells from the Barclay sale and paid high prices, £4 for a large cyclophorid in the 1880/90s was a lot of money then”.

barclay label

This case demonstrates again that it is worthwhile to document the history of collections and collectors.

Anonymous (1909). Miss J.E. Linter. – The Nautilus 23: 84.
Breure, A.S.H. (2015). The malacological handwritings in the autograph collection of the Ph. Dautzenberg archives, Brussels. – Folia conchyliologica 33: 1–111.
Dance, S.P. (1966). Shell collecting, an illustrated history: 1–344. University of California Press, Berkeley/Los Angeles.
Smith, E.A. (1910). Obituary notice  – Proceedings of the Malacological Society of London 9: 89.
Tomlin, J.R. le B. (1949). Shell sales, VI. – Proceedings of the Malacological Society of London 27: 254.

Apt for some confusion

Philipp Meinecke sent me a link to http://tolweb.org/images/Helicopsychidae/14641. Always good to have a look on the other side of the fence (i.c. entomology).

This text and figures by Karl Kjer explain:


The snail-case caddisflies of the family Helicopsychidae were first recognized as the subfamily Helicopsychinae of Sericostomatidae by Ulmer (1906) and were retained there by a number of European workers well into the 1950s, most notably Ulmer himself (Ulmer 1955). Ross (1944) and other American workers considered the group a distinct family, reflecting its current status. As presently constituted, the family contains only 2 genera, the cosmopolitan Helicopsychevon Siebold with about 250 species, and the New Zealand endemic genus Rakiura McFarlane, with a single species, R. vernale McFarlane. Several previously recognized genera, including Cochliopsyche Müller (Neotropical), Petrotrichia Ulmer (Afrotropical, including Madagascar and the Seychelles, but absent from southern Africa), and Saetotrichia Brauer (Australia, New Zealand, New Caledonia), were relegated as subgenera of Helicopsyche by Johanson (1998). In the same paper, Johanson described 2 additional subgenera of Helicopsyche: Feropsyche (Nearctic, Neotropical) and Galeopsyche(Korea, Vietnam). The nominotypical subgenus occurs in the Palearctic and Oriental regions. As a whole the family is poorly represented in the Northern Hemisphere, but reaches its greatest diversity in the tropics of the Old and New Worlds (Johanson 1997); the Neotropics alone hosts about 100 species.  Taken from Holzenthal et al. (2007).


Larvae of the genus are the familiar and remarkable snail-case builders. These helical, sand grain cases are so similar to snails that early workers described these insects as molluscs. Lea (1834) went so far as to say of Valvata arenifera(=Helicopsyche borealis), “It has the singular property of strengthening its whirls by the agglutination of particles of sand, and by which it is entirely covered.” While all helical, there is great diversity in the height of cases, the number and openness of the whorls, the size of mineral material, and the amount of silk incorporated. All helicopsychid larvae appear to feed as scrapers on periphyton and other organic matter on the exposed surfaces of rocks. They are found in slow flowing lowland streams as well as springs, small fast-flowing streams, and the wave-washed shores of lakes in temperate regions; they also occur in the hyporheic zone (Williams et al. 1983) and in thermal springs (Resh et al. 1984). The biology of the North American species, H. borealis (Hagen) is well known (Vaughn 1985a, b, 1987). Taken from Holzenthal et al. (2007).

Discussion of Phylogenetic Relationships

Since Morse’s (1997) review of phylogenetic studies within the Trichoptera,  Johanson has undertaken significant analyses of evolutionary relationships within Helicopsyche (Johanson 1998, 2001, 2002, Johanson & Willassen 1997).Taken from Holzenthal et al. (2007).


Holzenthal R.W., Blahnik, R.J., Prather, A.L., and Kjer K.M. 2007. Order Trichoptera Kirby 1813 (Insecta), Caddisflies. In: Zhang, Z.-Q., and Shear, W.A. (Eds). 2007 Linneaus Tercentenary: Progress in Invertebrate Taxonomy. Zootaxa 1668:639-698
Johanson, K.A. (1997) Zoogeography and diversity of the snail case caddisflies (Trichoptera: Helicopsychidae). In: Holzenthal, R.W. & Flint, O.S., Jr. (Eds.) Proceedings of the 8th International Symposium on Trichoptera. Ohio Biological Survey, Columbus, Ohio, pp. 205–212.
Johanson, K.A. (1998) Phylogenetic and biogeographic analysis of the family Helicopsychidae (Insecta: Trichoptera). Entomologica Scandinavica, Supplement, 53, 1–172.
Johanson, K.A. (2001) Phylogenetic and biogeographical analysis of the New Zealand Helicopsyche von Seibold (Trichoptera: Helicopsychidae). Insect Systematics and Evolution, 32, 107–120.
Johanson, K.A. (2002) A new primitive Helicopsyche from Madagascar (Trichoptera: Helicopsychidae), with phylogenetic analysis of Afrotropical species. Tijdschrift voor Entomologie, 145.
Johanson, K.A. & Willassen, E. (1997) Are the African species of Helicopsyche von Siebold 1856 (Insecta Trichoptera Helicopsychidae) monophyletic? Tropical Zoology, 10, 117–128.
Lea, I. (1834) Observations on the Naiades, and descriptions of new species of that and other families. Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, 4, 63–121.
Morse, J.C. (1997) Phylogeny of Trichoptera. Annual Review of Entomology, 42, 427–450.
Resh, V.H., Lamberti, G.A. & Wood, J.R. (1984) Biological studies of Helicopsyche borealis (Hagen) in a coastal California stream. In: Morse, J.C. (Ed.) Proceedings of the 4th International Symposium on Trichoptera. Dr. W. Junk, The Hague, pp. 315–319.
Ross, H.H. (1944) The caddisflies or Trichoptera of Illinois. Bulletin of the Illinois Natural History Survey, 23, 1–326.
Ulmer, G. (1906) Neuer beitrag zur kenntnis außereuropäischer Trichopteren. Notes from the Leyden Museum, 28, 1–116.
Ulmer, G. (1955) Köcherfliegen (Trichopteren) von den Sunda-Inseln. Teil II. Larven und Puppen der Integripalpia.Archiv für Hydrobiologie, Supplement, 21, 408–608.
Vaughn, C.C. (1985a) Evolutionary ecology of case architecture in the snailcase caddisfly, Helicopsyche borealis. Freshwater Invertebrate Biology, 54, 178–186.
Vaughn, C.C. (1985b) Life history of Helicopsyche borealis (Hagen) (Trichoptera: Helicopsychidae) in Oklahoma. American Midland Naturalist, 113, 76–83.
Vaughn, C.C. (1987) Substratum preference of the caddisfly Helicopsyche borealis (Hagen) (Trichoptera: Helicopsychidae). Hydrobiologia, 154, 201–205.
Williams, D.D., Read, A.T. & Moore, K.A. (1983) The biology and zoogeography of Helicopsyche borealis (Trichoptera: Helicopsychidae): a Nearctic representative of a tropical genus. Canadian Journal of Zoology, 61, 2288–2299.


An interesting and potential case of mimicry. Or just a possibility for confusion. Some of these caddisfly shells have already been spotted in a malacological collection, so curators may want to check their holdings…

New paper

Last week a new paper was published on the Weyrauch heritage. It contains a list of his taxa at the species level, partly a repeat of Barbosa et al. (2008) but with more exact data on his type localities. A list of taxa described by other authors based on Weyrauch’s material has been included. Finally, most of the Orthalicoidea type material present in the Tucum??n museum is here figured for the first time.


Barbosa, A.F., Delhey, V.K. & Coan, E.V., 2008. Molluscan names and malacological contributions by Wolfgang Karl Weyrauch (1907-1970) with a brief biography. – Malacologia 50: 265-277.
Breure, A.S.H., 2012. Weyrauch’s type localities: a clarification; with illustrations of types of Orthalicoidea (Mollusca, Gastropoda, Stylommatophora) in the Tucum??n museum. – Folia conchyliologica 17: 4-24.

History matters

During revisions, old collections may pose questions totally unrelated to taxonomy, which are nevertheless crucial to solve in order take the right decision. An example may illustrate this.


In the Natural History Museum in London I found material of Bostryx guttatus (Broderip, 1832), which was described from “Peruvia, Cobija or Puerto de la Mar”. Nowadays, Cobija is considered Chile, Región de Antofagasta.




In the collection, this material was labelled ‘Bolivia’, and the question was: could these specimens possibly be considered syntypes, even if they were seemingly mislabeled?




For an answer to this question we have to know some facts about the history of this region. In Spanish times this region was part of the Audencia of Charcas, which was a political units of the Viceroyalty of Peru. It was bordered in the south by the Audencia de Chile.


 Schermafbeelding 2016-01-10 om 05.02.58


Chile became independent in 1818, and Bolivia (till then called ‘Upper Peru’) followed in 1825. Bolivian and Chilean historicans disagree on whether there was access to the sea for this new republic. During the 19th century borders were often not well defined and boundaries in the Atacama had not been well-established when deposits of nitrate, silver and copper were discovered. The dispute began when both countries claimed the territory, leading to the War of the Pacific (1879-1884).


It ultimately led to the Chilean annexation of the Tarapacá department and Arica province and of the Bolivian department of Litoral; it left Bolivia as a land-locked country. Later the boundary between Chile and Peru was established with the Tacna-Arica compromise in 1929.


The conclusion thus may be, that any material that was collected in this region during the 19th century could bear a label indicating one of the three countries involved, depending on the exact date of labeling. Note that this labeling also could have been done at a later stage, with re-interpretation of the political-administrative situation. Thus some margin of error may always be involved, unless there other sources which are helpful for the interpretation.
My answer to the question of the B. guttatus label is, yes it may be possible to interpret this as a case where ‘Bolivia’ was correct at the time of labeling, where the locality of collection now belongs to Chile.


Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atacama_border_dispute with related links and references quoted therein.

Past the silence

The past two weeks it has been silent here. Not because there was nothing happening, but technicalities prevented me from posting. Sometimes a firewall is too strict to allow outgoing messages…

Actually, I have been working in the Brussels museum, on invitation of Thierry Backeljau, the current curator of malacology.


My prime interest was the type collection. According to their database, there are not more than 30 type lots for the Orthalicoidea. However, upon inspection, several appeared to be bearing manuscript names only. Others were e.g. hypotypes
(a described or figured specimen, used in publication extending or correcting the knowledge of a previously defined species; Frizzel, 1933: 653).
Of the ones with manuscript names two at least were undescribed species. However, of both of them only one specimen was present and the locality was rather vague.
Several taxa described by Nyst and supposedly present here, had not been found so far. However, Rose Sablon, the collection mamager knew there was a separate place were hypotypes were stored. Indeed, the type material IS
present 🙂

The types are stored separately in the Dautzenberg collection, which is in a separate huge room. Every type is stored in zipped bags inside transparent plastic boxes.

Apart from the types, the Dautzenberg collection is especially interesting. It is still in its original state and indexed by a huge card
index system. Also his personal library and his archive are still intact. This enabled me – with the help of Rose Sablon – to track the origin of the many specimens I found with labels “coll. Cousin”. Auguste Cousin was French, and lived for many years in Ecuador during the second half of the 19th century. He travelled the country extensively (presumably on horseback) and brought together a large collection. He published only once on his results (Cousin, 1887); it is one of the baseline studies for the Ecuadorian malacofauna. 


In the Dautzenberg archive we found an inventory of Cousin’s collection. As it appears, it was purchased by Dautzenberg in 1913; however it is not known from whom. Just as a guess, it could be G??ret, a Paris based merchant who also sold parts of the Ancey collection to Dautzenberg.
Cousin, A., 1887. Faune mamalcologique de la r??publique de l’??quateur. – Bulletin de la Soci??t?? zoologique de France 12: 187-287.
Frizzel, D.L., 1933. Terminology of types. – American Midland Naturalist 14: 637-668.