The snail, the snake, the frog, the toad, and now the fish

 Aquarium fish, Books, Cichlids, Fish, Ichthyology, taxonomy  Kommentarer inaktiverade för The snail, the snake, the frog, the toad, and now the fish
Nov 272012
 

Yesterday’s discoverers are forgotten, faded to oblivion, erased from their maps. As I ask the students, do you know Rolf Blomberg’s books? They stare bufoed, but that’s not an imitation of the gaze of the giant toad discovered by Rolf Blomberg, Bufo blombergi. It is the gaze of the blankness of mind. Too much information around, and too much gets lost. How small our world is, that of travelling biologists and likes, traversing the world in pursuit of dreamed discoveries of new exciting animals or plants, new lands full of things to know and name. It has come to almost nothing and all the thorny paths of the past are paved. Why remember that transatlantic flights were unthinkable just two generations past.

Rolf Blomberg was born into a family residing in Stocksund, just a short bike-ride from the Swedish Museum of Natural History.  It was in 1912, 11 November, in times of relative peace and a relatively orderly Swedish society . The new building of the Museum, at the northern end of the experimental field, was up and running, although not complete until 1916, and young Blomberg became a frequent visitor. Crowding up with loads of stuffed skins, dried bones and spirited fish, however, wasn’t on the agenda for the future. Only 17 he took a job as ship hand, and only 22 he was on his life’s endless journey landing him first in the Galápagos, and eventually taking him around the world  in the quest for the undiscovered, for the great adventure, in a time when everything was already discovered. Although familiar with Africa and Asia, he always returned to the rain forests of the Amazon and the trails of the treasure maps. Blomberg eventually settled in Quito, Ecuador, to become an old man never ceasing to dream of another adventure or the gold of El Dorado. He died in 1996 in Quito. Elderly Swedes, less and less of them, will mostly remember him for his jungle books and films, spiced with exoticism and anacondas, but yet important documentaries from now lost worlds. Others for his engagement in human rights, born out of his observations of the miserable social conditions and political alienation in which he encountered ethnic groups during his travels, particularly in the Amazon, but also extended to protesting the Viet Nam war in the 1960s. In Ecuador his name lives on. There is a good website at Archivo Blomberg with many of his photographs. The English Wikipedia has basic information, also carried by the German, but the Swedish almost zero.  But, after all, he is not quite overboard in Sweden either: Not a little dose of nostalgia and substantial admiration for the explorer was manifested recently in a comprehensive biography by journalist Walter Repo (Repo, 2011), who  also keeps a blog featuring blombergiana of all sorts, rolfblomberg.se. In Swedish. Let’s hope the book gets translated for the rest of the world.

Photo of NRM21169 Chelonoidis nigra

Galápagos giant tortoise Chelonoides nigra, collected by Rolf Blomberg (NRM 21169). Photo Sven Kullander, CC-BY-NC.

Blomberg collaborated with  several museums and systematists. The museums in Gothenburg and Stockholm possess numerous specimens preserved in ethanol, and particularly noteworthy there are some outstanding mounted specimens of Galápagos tortoises and iguanas.

His collecting resulted in four species being named after him. The most spectacular must have been the giant frog Bufo blombergi Myers & Funkhouser, 1951, now often seen as Rhaebo blombergi. Phyllomedusa blombergi Funkhouser, 1957, is a synonym of Phyllomedusa vaillantii Boulenger, 1882, a handsome little tree frog, dubbed white lined leaf frog in spaced English. Bulimulus blombergi Odhner, 1951, now Naesiotus blombergi, is one of so many land snails in Ecuador. Most colourful may be Boa annulata blombergi Rendahl & Vestergren, 1941, now Corallus annulatus or – for us who shun trinomina – Corallus blombergi, which despite its associative name is not a coral snake but a small non-venomous boid snake.

Now, 100 years after Rolf Blomberg was born, it seems pertinent to add another name to the list, because he also collected fish and the fish collections distributed in the museums of Gothenburg and Stockholm have rested magically untouched for much too long. The species Andinoacara blombergi Wijkmark, Kullander & Barriga (2012), is a handsome fish which is known for sure only from the Esmeraldas drainage, the river of emeralds, on the Pacific versant of Ecuador. Some old specimens collected by Manuel Olalla are labeled with a locality in the more northern río Santiago, where it has not been found again, and some that Blomberg got from Ramón Olalla have the locality río Pucayacu, in Amazonian Ecuador. The latter locality is most certainly in error. Mistakes happen. Specimens collected by Blomberg in the río Blanco, one of the main sources of the Esmeraldas, are, however, included in the type series.

Andinoacara blombergi, the holotype, MEPN 11180. Photo by Nicklas Wijkmark, CC-BY-NC.

Andinoacara blombergi is very similar to A. rivulata, and has been confused with it for all of the existence of the latter, but it is more slim and with higher meristics.  Andinoacara rivulata is a common species in the Guayas and Túmbes drainages in southern Ecuador and adjacent Peru. Everything taxonomic about Andinoacara blombergi is available by open access, so it might be a better idea to read there than to search for the same information here.

The description of A. blombergi is based on the work of Nicklas Wijkmark as a Masters student under my supervision, presented in 2007. Seven years ago. Things take time. Nicklas actually made a revision of the whole genus Andinoacara, and more papers are in the tow. Nicklas has since attended to other career opportunities. One of his talents is photography, in which he excels in images of life in wild waters, close-ups of little things, and panoramas of the open landscape. Just sit down with a cup of something and cklick slowly through the marvellous photos at Wijkmark Photography.

Rolf Blomberg lived for travelling and by publishing. He wrote numerous articles fror magazines and newspapers, Swedish and international, mainly about his travels. He made numerous public presentations, and produced alone or together with Torgny Anderberg several documentary or semidocumentaty films for television or cinema. His intellectual legacy is embodied mainly by his books, many of them translated to several other languages, the first in 1936, the last exactly 40 years later:

  • Blomberg, R. 1936. Underliga människor och underliga djur. Hugo Gebers Förlag, Stockholm
  • Blomberg, R. 1938. Högkvarter hos huvudjägare. Hugo Gebers Förlag, Stockholm
  • Blomberg, R. 1940. Underliga människor och underliga djur. Gebers Förlag, Stockholm

    Cover of Blomberg's book Underliga mäniskor och underliga djur

    Front over of Blomberg’s book Underliga mäniskor och underliga djur, 1953 edition

  • Blomberg, R. 1947. Sydvart. Gebers Förlag, Stockholm
  • Blomberg, R. 1948. Nya Smålands upptäckt. Gebers Förlag, Stockholm
  • Blomberg, R. 1949. Vildar.Gebers Förlag, Stockholm
  • Blomberg, R. 1951. Såna djur finns. Gebers Förlag, Stockholm
  • Blomberg, R. 1952. Ecuador. Gebers Förlag, Stockholm
  • Blomberg, R. 1956. Guld att hämta. Gebers Förlag, Stockholm
  • Blomberg, R. 1958. Xavante. Gebers Förlag, Stockholm
  • Blomberg, R. 1959. Jätteormar och skräcködlor. Gebers Förlag, Stockholm
  • Blomberg, R. 1960. Latitud 0°. Almqvist & Wiksell/Gebers Förlag, Stockholm
  • Blomberg, R. 1962. Äventyr i djungeln. Folket i Bilds Förlag, Stockholm
  • Blomberg, R. 1964. Människor i djungeln. Gebers Förlag, Stockholm
  • Blomberg, R. 1965. Mina tropiska öar. Gebers Förlag, Stockholm
  • Blomberg, R. 1966. Rio Amazonas.  Gebers Förlag, Stockholm
  • Blomberg, R. 1967. Imbabura – bergsindianernas land. Gebers Förlag, Stockholm
  • Blomberg, R. 1973. Bufo blombergi. Iskry, Warzawa
  • Blomberg, R. & A. Lundkvist. 1973. Träd. Bokförlaget Bra Böcker, Höganäs
  • Blomberg, R. 1976. Tropisk utsikt. Bokförlaget Bra Böcker, Höganäs

 

References
Repo, W. 2011. Folkhemmets äventyrare. En biografi om forskningsluffaren Rolf Blomberg. Atlas, Stockholm, 335 pp. ISBN 978-91-7389-380-0
Wijkmark, N., S. O. Kullander & R. Barriga S. 2012. Andinoacara blombergi, a new species from the río Esmeraldas basin in Ecuador and a review of A. rivulatus (Teleostei: Cichlidae). Ichthyological Exploration of Freshwaters, 23: 117-137. Open Access PDF from Verlag Dr. Friedrich Pfeil.

The artist with the golden guppy

 Aquarium fish, Art, Fish, zoological nomenclature  Kommentarer inaktiverade för The artist with the golden guppy
Nov 122012
 
Tor Otto Fredlin photograph

Tor Otto Fredlin. Photo published in Akvariet, 1932. Unknown artist. Public domain.

In my mildly enegetic aspirations to acquire a full set of the Swedish aquarium magazine Akvariet (1927-1988), I was fortunate to add recently the 1932 volume, which turned out to contain  several highlights. This volume, the October issue contains a rare description of a new fish by Wilhelm Schreitmüller, naming it after the Swedish painter Tor Otto Fredlin. It is not cited in the Catalog of Fishes and Google doesn’t know about it yet, so it may be worth commenting on.

Tor Otto Fredlin was born in north Sweden, in the town of Härnösand, 16 June 1890. After school he tested different professions and among other things assisted a a taxidermist. His inclination seems to have been toward painted more than real animals, however. He studied painting at Althin’s School of Painting (in Swedish: Althins målarskola) in Stockholm 1910-1912, and his first exhibition was in Härnösand in 1915. He moved to Lund in southern Sweden in 1920, and stayed there for the rest of his life. Fredlin never married, and he made only one trip abroad, to study art in France in 1924.  As an artist he mainly painted nature settings with animals in focus, mostly birds, but also colourful landscapes. Most paintings seem to have been aquarels and oil paintings of small size.

Akvariefiskar, from Djurens värld 1939, 1948. Artist T.O. Fredlin

Fredlin’s colour plate Akvariefiskar I in Wallengren & Hanström, 1939, 1948, Djurens värld, Fiskar. Actually a composite copied from other illustrations not in copyright.

On the fish side, he made the colour illustrations for the encyclopedic Djurens värld (Wallengren & Hanström, 1937-1940, reprinted 1948), at least one of them depicting fishes he might have had in his own aquarium. Yes, he was also a fish keeper and fish breeder, an aquarist. I cannot find much about Fredlin as an aquarist (or even as an artist), but an idolizing article by the signature Bej in Akvariet, 1932, may be cited in part:

!… one of our country’s greatest aquarium friends. … It is Tor Otto Fredlin, the artist, ”the nearsighted nature observer” as an art critic once so characterisingly expressed it. Because our friend Fredlin is a nature observer as few others! He sees everything i nature. Some things even that are secluded from us normal people. … He has the true ability to decorate his containers as cosy and attractive. It is always a pleasure to visit him and hear him speak about and describe his animals. … He shared generously from his rich knowledge. When this was so distributed in the timid way that is so particular for Fredlin, one felt his greatness and was impressed. Already in 1926 he had in addition to many egglayers a remarkably beautiful stock of mirrored golden platys, cultivated by himself. It was lost during a trip up to Norrland. But he did not despond. A lot was still in the wait. He observed our commonest fish, the guppy. Wasn’t there something to do? Couldn’t one get something exceptional out of it? And thus the thought of the yellow guppy that is now a reality had run up to his brain. Who else among us would have had the patience then to spend 7 whole years with this ”inconspicuous” fish? It had to be a Fredlin! [The translation attempts to preserve some of the spirit of the original.]

Breathtaking praise. Fredlin must have been a star among aquarists. More sober, but still generously appreciative was Edvin Brorsson’s (1956) obituary. Obviously Fredlin ended his days in the autumn of 1955 as an aquarist in action, among his aquaria in his home in Lund: ”He was in the middle of work with cleaning a container as he sat down to rest on a chair, and from here fell dead to the floor.”

His artistic career apparently was not rocketing at any time. His paintings still sell, at modest prices, but let us remember him primarily for painting a grey fish golden, as close to an alchemical GMO one can come. One would expect Fredlin to have painted his golden guppies also in oil, but I am unaware of a colour illustration. Brorsson (1942) reproduces a drawing in monochrome halftone, presumably of a colour painting. It is a typical Fredlin scene, with half the painting empty, and the subject hovering in front of vegetation. Like Fredlin’s fish illustrations in Djurens värld the drawing lacks artistic quality. Many or all of his fish drawings seem to be exact or crude reproductions of photographs. In the colour plate shown here, the Rivulus urophthalmus (yellow top fish) and Hemigrammus ocellifer (group of greys to the left) are exactly as on photographs in Innes (1935, pp. 112, 243), even in number and position, even the background has been copied. Presumably living aquarium fish weren’t within the artistic nearsightedness of the master.

I am ignorant enough about guppies to not know if the golden guppies in the aquarium shops today are descendants of the Scanian breed. It seems likely that pigment mutations of later days may have taken the place of Fredlin’s creation. Nevertheless, at the time, this golden guppy was regarded as something very special. Edvin Brorsson, publisher of Akvariet, sent a batch of living goldens to Wilhelm Schreitmüller in Frankfurt, editor of the Wochenschrift für Aquarien- und Terrarienkunde, and author of several books on aquarium fishes. Schreitmüller responded with an article describing the goldens as a new ”variety”, naming it for Fredlin, which in its entirety reads like this when translated from Swedish to English:

Lebistes reticulatus (Peters) var. Fredlini (Schreitm.)
By Vilhelm Schreitmüller, Frankfurt am Main

A short time ago, Mr Brorsson, Malmö, sent me a fish can with some golden yellow Lebistes reticulatus (Peters), millionfishes or Guppi), along with a message that these were produced in culture from the typical and natural form by a Swedish aquarium friend, Mr T. O. Fredlin, over a period of 8 years, and that the fishes nowadays leave a stable offspring. In shape those animals are typcal Lebistes reticulatus (Peters). The males have a length of 2-2.5 cm., the females 3-3.5 cm., all including caudal fins.

On the back, the males are dark yellow, while hindbody and caudal pedcuncle are light yellow, the latter with 2 vermilion round spots, in front of which are placed a dark and a copper red spot. One of the males sent along has a dark, white-margined dot at the base of the caudal fin. The scales on the anterior par tof the back have a faint dark margin.

The females are orange yellow on the back and on the entire hindbody with caudal peduncle. The pregnancy spot is pink red. The scales on the anterior part of the back are finely dark margined. The abdomen is yellow white.

We thus have to deal with heare typical xanthoristic specimens, whose fins are transparent and seem to be equipped with a yellow cast. Pectoral and pelvic fins’s base is reddish.

In recognition of the breeder and to differentiate these animals from the typical Lebistes reticulatus (Peters), I call this fish:”Lebistes reticulatus (Peters) var. Fredlini (Schreitm.)”
even if xanthoristic forms ”actually” should not have a distinct name (usually!) – But that even the professional zoologists make exceptions in this regard is apparent best from the names below:

”Carrasius auratus (L.)” = goldfish,
”Tinca aurata (Cuv.)” = guldsutare,
”Cyprinus auratus (Mats.)” = gold carp,
”Platypoecilus immaculatus (Myers)” = gold platy,
and many others, which all of them also are only xanthoristic forms of the species in question.

In the same manner certain melanotic forms of lizards, e.g., ”Lacerta lilfordi maluqueurorum (Mertens)” and several others receive their particular variety names.

So – why should one not then be able to give the xanthoristic form of Lebistes reticulatus (Peters) a proper variety name? ”Was dem Einen recht ist, ist dem Anderen billig”!

Food, care and water temperature is for the new guppy the same as for the original species.
(Frankfurt am Main 10/10  [Italics as in the original, parentheses as in the original. PDF of original]

A similar text, in German, was published in the Wochenschrift in 1933 (Schreitmüller, 1933). Schreitmüller’s  description does not make the name fredlini available for purposes of zoological nomenclature. On the one hand,  the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature covers names of domestic animals (e.g., Canis familiaris for dogs), but is also expressly excludes names proposed for varieties after 1960. For names of varieties proposed before 1961, Articles 45.6.1 and 45.6.4 apply, and they exclude names given to what obviously is not a subspecies except if a later citation exists, before 1985, that uses the name for a valid species or subspecies. This may be worth looking into, but for now, fredlini is not going to lengthen our lists of guppy synonyms, as the name was applied explicitly on a colour form.

Fredlin’s golden guppy is not the only one, and not the only one named by Schreitmüller. Already in 1934 Schreitmüller  reported on specimens of ”Goldguppy” sent alive to him and originating from German breeders in Czechoslovakia (Schreitmüller, 1934). He compared them with the Fredlin guppy, noting that the Czechoslovakian guppy lacked spots on the side and fins, and that the Fredlin guppy was more intensely golden yellow. Schreitmüller named the new form Lebistes reticulatus aurata, noting that: ”Dieser name soll nur als Unterscheidungsmerkmal dienen.” [This name must only serve as distinguishing character.] One may interpret this as meaning that Lebistes reticulatus aurata was intented as just a category stamp and not as a scientific name. Seven specimens are preserved in the Zoological Museum in Berlin, and were listed as syntypes of of Lebistes reticulatus aurata by Paepke & Seegers (1986), so obviously these authors considered Schreitmüller’s name available, although they identify the specimens as Poecilia reticulata.

In a later issue of the Wochenschrift, Franz Melecky, from Kremsier (Kroměříž, in the present Czech Republic), described how he discovered golden guppies in his plant breeding compound, propagated them and started distributing Goldguppy as Lebistes reticulatus aurata from 1925 onward. Interestingly, Melecky uses the name Lebistes reticulatus fredlini at the end of his story, speculating if a cross with the Fredlin guppy could improve on the size of his own Goldguppy, as they didn’t reach the sizes of the original stock. Does this make fredlini available? Or is this the end of the story?

References

  • Bej. 1932. Känd akvarieentusiast. Akvariet, 6: 39–40.
  • Brorsson, E. 1942. Den stora akvarieboken. Andra, reviderade upplagan. Sundqvist & Emond, Lund, 300 pp.
  • Brorsson, E. 1956. T. O. Fredlin. Akvariet, 30: 47.
  • Innes, W.T. 1935. Exotic aquarium fishes. Innes Publishing Co., Philadelphia, 464 pp.
  • Melecky, F. 1934. Goldguppy (Lebistes reticulatus aurata). Wochenschrift für Aquarien- und Terrarienkunde, 31: 427.
  • Nyman, T. 1944. Fredlin, Tor Otto. P. 592 i Bohman, N. (ed.), Svenska män och kvinnor 2. Albert Bonniers Förlag, Stockholm.
  • Paepke, H.-J.  & L. Seegers  1986 Kritischer Katalog der Typen und Typoide der Fischsammlung des Zoologischen Museums Berlin. Teil 1: Atheriniformes. Mitteilungen aus dem Zoologischen Museum in Berlin, 62: 135–186.
  • Schreitmüller, V. 1932. Lebistes reticulatus (Peters) var. Fredlini (Schreitm.).  Akvariet, 6: 118–119.
  • Schreitmüller, W. 1933. Neuimporte und anderes. Hyphessobrycon bifasciatus Ellis, Cichlosoma cutteri Fowl., Colossoma species, Hyphessobrycon species I und II und Lebistes reticulatus (Pet.) var. fredlini (Schreitm.). Wochenschrift für Aquarien- und Terrarienkunde, 30: 145–149.
  • Schreitmuller, W. 1934. Der ”Goldguppy” und ein Totalalbino von Xiphophorus hellerii Heckel. Wochenschrift für Aquarien- und Terrarienkunde, 31: 242–243.
  • Wallengren, H. & B. Hanström (eds.). 1939. Djurens värld. En populärvetenskaplig framställning av djurens liv på grundval av Brehm’s Tierleben utarbetad av Ingvald Lieberkind. Fiskar Band II. Svensk uppslagsbok, Malmö, 439 pp.
  • Wallengren, H. & B. Hanström (eds.). 1948. Djurens värld. En populärvetenskaplig framställning av djurens liv på grundval av Brehm’s Tierleben utarbetad av Ingvald Lieberkind. Fiskar Band II. Förlagshuset Norden, Malmö, 439 pp.
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