Sven Kullander

Sirens of Liège

 Ichthyology, meetings, Not categorized, Travel  Kommentarer inaktiverade för Sirens of Liège
jul 092012
 

This is the first day of silence after coming back to Stockholm from the XIV European Ichthyological Congress in Liège, Belgium (3-8July).

Aquarium and Museum Liège front

Entrance to the museum and aquarium in Liège, venue of the XIV European Congress of Ichthyology, July 2012

Whereas the meeting, attended by a round 260 delegates from all over Europe and occasional from farther away, was well organised and quite informative, heat hit us and noise. Coming from a cold Swedish summer, the rainiest June in 200 years, Liègian temperatures were an amiable mid-20s and only one shower wet us. But it took buying a few more T-shirts (from Swedish H&M) to feel comfortably neat around the clock. I loved the heat, actually. But the noise… Constructed as an intricate labyrinth of narrow streets between stone and brick buildings, sounds from everything sounding cascaded through the streets of Liège and there was no escape even in the hotel room. Most remarkable, however, were the frequent ambulances and police cars continuously racing in and out of streets and alleys, with a 2000 db (exaggerating, but well …) high pitch sirens resounding all over the municipality. Quite remarkable. Liègians seem to love noise more than anything else.

 

 

Photo of stuffed mermaid in Liège museum

Sirena anthroposelacia pilifera in the exhibit of the Aquarium in Liège

 

 

 

Fleeing the street sirens I had a brief encounter with a real one in the lower floor of the combined public aquarium and zoological museum (Liège Aquarium-Museum) , which was also the venue for the Congress. This little lady had a glass cage all for herself, in swimming pose, and is indeed the first real stuffed mermaid I have come close to in real life.

 

Fish exhibit of the zoological museum in Liège

A part of the systematically ordered exhibit at the zoological Museum in Liège

 

The rest of the aquarium is maybe mainly for the local audience. The Museum, however, two floors up, was neat and had a number of interesting objects, making it well worth a visit. Displaying real animals in systematic order it was ideal and should be a lead star for other natural history exhibits.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo of notebook with fish drawings

Pages in notebook by Francis de Castelnau in the exhibition of the Zoological Museum in Liège

One table display featured a charming set of castelnauiana that was news to me, including drawing equipment, notebooks, and sketches from the later days of Francis de Castelnau (1810-1880). Apparently Castelnau donated specimens to the museum along with the notebooks, and there is now a plan to repaint the stuffed fishes based on the drawings.

The Congress? Well, I probably sat more than the usual number of sessions. Belgium has a big advantage in having several institutions providing training and research opportunities in morphology and anatomy, making it an interesting breeding ground for evolutionary and functional analyses of fish physionomies and behaviour, and has also a very strong research in African freshwater fishes. This balanced very well a large number of more or less conclusive or inconclusive molecular presentations. I travelled with NRM FishBase staff Michael Norén and Bodil Kajrup who presented a talk on our ongoing hagfish research, and a poster of a mapping of Swedish fish type localities, respectively. I have been too occupied with other things recently, and did not feel like giving a talk. Some other time. Maybe on mermaids. This is not the last mermaid post. It didn’t turn out a meeting report, at least.

By the way: The European Ichthyological Congresses are organised locally (this one mainly by the University of Liège) but are actually a significant part of activities of the European Ichthyological Society. The first congress was organised in Sarajevo in 1972. I was one of the organisers of the Congress in Stockholm in 1985. Membership in the society is open for all, and there is a website (http://artedi.nrm.se/eis/) providing the details how to join.

 

All photos © Sven O Kullander, CC-NC-BY

Sharks, skates, and Swedish seas

 Books, Fish, taxonomy  Kommentarer inaktiverade för Sharks, skates, and Swedish seas
maj 232011
 

Today is the offcial release day of the 13th volume of the The Encyclopedia of the Swedish Flora and Fauna, dedicated to lower chordates, ie., lancelets, tunicates, hagfish, lampreys and chondrichthyans. It also comes with an introduction to chordates and to craniates, the latter sprawling with colorful dino drawings. Although I am first author, most of this tome is about tunicates with fantastic images from within and without that makes it a particulatly worthwhile reading (and buying, come on it is only SEK 345 and you get the sharks for free!) Thus, tunicate expert Thomas Stach, Freie Universität Berlin, and the late Hans G. Hansson, Tjärnö Marine Biological Laboratory, provided most of the species in this volume. But it also has one hagfish, three lampreys, and 29 chondrichthyans.

What you will like most about this volume is probably the graphics. For the craniates major contributing artists Linda Nyman and Karl Jilg, guided in the intricate details by Bo Delling,  have excelled in creating live-to-touch impressions of fish and the like that few of us have actually seen alive and healthy.

Given that there already many shark books, not least the excellent compilations by Leonard Compagno, and volumes dedicated to hagfish and lampreys, and of course there is FishBase, one might as author feel like facing a table already laid with easily digested goodies. Especially in a species-poor country like Sweden with an ocean part that on a world map looks like you can jump over it to land dry. This is not so. Thousands of fisheries and fish biology papers appear every year, and still nobody seems to know what marine fish eat, how big they get, how they reproduce, how old they get, or even where they occur or what they look like. Nobody even knows which one is one of the biggest skates in Europe, Dipturus batis. Honestly, von Bertalanffy curves carry no meaningful biological information.

Nevertheless, it was indeed possible to provide details on all the Swedish species of hagfish, lampreys and chondrichthyans.  It took six years to complete this volume, but rewardingly for all involved it feels like one has now turned pages entering into a new era of fish information in Sweden with the first real updated national fauna since 1895 in Skandinaviens fiskar (Fries et al., 1836-1857; Smitt, 1892-1895), and a worthy replacement to the popular standard Våra fiskar (Curry-Lindahl, 1985). It summarizes current knowledge and it provides a new platform for ecological and taxonomic research. And yes, of course the ray-finned fishes were not forgotten. They have been worked out in parallel and will be published in a separate fish-only volume to appear in the autumn of 2012.

The Encyclopedia is a project started at the Swedish Species Information Centre in Uppsala in 2001  and aims to produce a series of identification handbooks with keys in Swedish and English to the Swedish plant, fungi and animal species. It is a long-term project, aimed at covering the 30 000-40 000 species which can be identified without highly advanced equipment. They will be described in detail, including information on distribution and biology. For most of them, distribution maps as well as illustrations will also be provided.

With the present volume, there is now a newly published checklist of Swedish lancelets, cyclostomes and chondrichthyans. It is not long, so here it comes before it gets outdated. Species known only from occasional records are annotated. For those interested in Nordic exotisms, you also get the Swedish name.

Branchiostoma lanceolatum (Pallas, 1774) lansettfisk

Myxine glutinosa Linnaeus, 1758 pirål

Petromyzon marinus Linnaeus, 1758 havsnejonöga

Lampetra fluviatilis (Linnaeus, 1758) flodnejonöga

Lampetra planeri (Bloch, 1784) bäcknejonöga

Chimaera monstrosa Linnaeus, 1758 havsmus

Lamna nasus (Bonnaterre, 1888) håbrand

Cetorhinus maximus (Gunnerus, 1765) brugd

Alopias vulpinus (Bonnaterre, 1888) rävhaj

Galeorhinus galeus (Linnaeus, 1758) gråhaj

Mustelus asterias Cloquet, 1821 nordlig hundhaj

Carcharhinus longimanus (Poey, 1861) årfenhaj (single record)

Prionace glauca (Linnaeus, 1758) blåhaj

Galeus melastomus Rafinesque, 1810 hågäl

Scyliorhinus canicula (Linnaeus, 1758) småfläckig rödhaj

Scyliorhinus stellaris (Linnaeus, 1758) storfläckig rödhaj (two records)

Hexanchus griseus (Bonnaterre, 1788) sexbågig kamtandhaj (single record)

Somniosus microcephalus (Schneider, 1801) håkäring

Etmopterus spinax (Linnaeus, 1758) blåkäxa

Squalus acanthias Linnaeus, 1758 pigghaj

Oxynotus centrina (Linnaeus, 1758) trekantshaj (single record, actually from Danish Skagerrak)

Squatina squatina (Linnaeus, 1758) havsängel (single record)

Torpedo nobiliana Bonaparte, 1835 darrocka (two records)

Dipturus batis (Linnaeus, 1758) slätrocka (apparently two species involved)

Dipturus linteus (Fries, 1838) vitrocka

Dipturus nidarosiensis (Storm, 1881) svartbuksrocka (single record)

Dipturus oxyrinchus (Linnaeus, 1758) plogjärnsrocka

Leucoraja fullonica (Linnaeus, 1758) näbbrocka (two records)

Amblyraja radiata (Donovan, 1808) klorocka

Raja clavata Linnaeus, 1758 knaggrocka

Rajella fyllae (Lütken, 1887) rundrocka (single record)

Dasyatis pastinaca (Linnaeus, 1758) spjutrocka

Myliobatis aquila (Linnaeus, 1758) (single record)

 

References

Curry-Lindahl, K. 1985. Våra fiskar. Havs- och sötvattensfiskar i Norden och övriga Europa. P.A. Norstedt & Söners Förlag, Stockholm

Fries, B. Fr., C. U. Ekström & C. J. Sundewall. 1836 -1857. Skandinaviens Fiskar. P. A. Norstedt & Söner, Stockholm, IV+222 pp. Appendices 1-44, 1-140, pls. 1-60. Fascicle 2-3 (1837),  4 (1840)  5, 1839 (p. 111 dated 22 October 1839, ) 6+pls 31-36, Latin text 57-72 (1840), 7+pls 37-42, Latin text 73-92 (1842)

Kullander, S.O., T. Stach, H.G. Hansson, B. Delling, H. Blom. 2011. Nationalnyckeln till Sveriges flora och fauna. Ryggsträngsdjur: lansettfiskar-broskfiskar. Chodrata: Branchiostomatidae-Chondrichthyes. ArtDatabanken, Uppsala. 327 pp.

Smitt, F.A. 1892. Skandinaviens fiskar målade af W. von Wright beskrifna av B. Fries, C.U. Ekström och C. Sundevall. Andra upplagan. Bearbetning och fortsättning. Text. Förra delen. P.A. Norstedt & Söners Förlag, Stockholm, pp. 1-566+I-VIII+2 pp.

Smitt, F.A. 1895. Skandinaviens fiskar målade af W. von Wright beskrifna av B. Fries, C.U. Ekström och C. Sundevall. Andra upplagan. Bearbetning och fortsättning.Text. Senare delen.. P.A. Norstedt & Söners Förlag, Stockholm, pp 567-1239+1 p.

Smitt, F.A. 1895. Skandinaviens fiskar målade af W. von Wright beskrifna av B. Fries, C.U. Ekström och C. Sundevall. Andra upplagan. Bearbetning och fortsättning. Taflor.  P.A. Norstedt & Söners Förlag, Stockholm, pls I-LIII, pp. I-III.

Amblyraja radiata image

Amblyraja radiata, from Fries et al.

Artedi lives … again

 Biographies, Books, Ichthyology, taxonomy  Kommentarer inaktiverade för Artedi lives … again
maj 182011
 

On the night of 27 September 1735 suddenly ended the life of one of the most significant founders of the science of systematic biology when Petrus Artedi, Angermannius, drowned in a canal in Amsterdam. At the age of 30, he was still not a man of fame, and did not leave wife, children or portrait. Only manuscripts, the ichthyological ones edited and published by Carl Linnaeus in 1738.

Since 1738 every scrap of information about Artedi has been carefully collected and arranged by ichthyologists and historians of science into a puzzle still full of lacunae. The big questions have been – who was this person? What would he have become had he lived on? Was Linnaeus really the genius, or was it Artedi? After all, Linnaeus is the baroque idol of the cultural wannabe élite. But in a scientific context he is but one in a web of masterminds continuously occupied with reconstructing the history of life on Earth.

In his mystery novel The curious death of Peter Artedia mystery in the history of science (222 pp., Scott & Nix, New York, 2010) Theodore W. Pietsch, ichthyologist, professor at the University of Washington in Seattle, tells the story again, this time in the hand of Carl Linnaeus, in Linnaeus’ characteristic egocentric, bombastic, voluptuous, but yet flowing and elegant fashion.

We already know how it ends, or do we? The curious death of Peter Artedi is a story about a crime (or is it?), an 18th Century mystery (or was it?), with all the information put together, with  the whole 18th Century  Western Europe baroque academia and naturalists as background actors in the drama of  the two Swedish student friends (or competitors?). One dead and forgotten. One glorified in eternal life. Or, why some of us cannot forget Artedi? Ted Pietsch has spent years on researching Artedi and Linnaeus, visiting the historical places and analyzing their publications and all the little documentation otherwise saved from Artedi. This book is his conclusion, and you have to read it.

Artedi in love? In another novel, Peter Artedi Helenas son (Peter Artedi, Helena’s son), by Gun Frostling (202 pp., Nomen förlag, Visby, 2010),  Artedi on the run after an embarrassing experience with his father, takes in at a countryside inn. Suddenly he whispers to the innkeeper’s daughter Katarina Ersdotter, ”We have to be careful, miss Katarina” …  The Katarina to whom he gives his final thoughts. Gun Frostling’s story is woven from the same fragmentary matter as all other Artedi biographies,  but gives him a real life on top of all the academic stuff, a real home, real parents, a loving girl, and spoken lines. And who is Gun Frostling? An author off the grid?

Beware, folks! Myths are coming to life here, in both those novels, fiction and facts creating a history of its own. Indeed, it may be time for the legend of Petrus Artedi to stand up against the icon of Linnaeus.

To conclude,  after all, scientists are people, human beings strong and weak in mind and heart as the wind blows this or that way. We have to remember that too.

Footnote: You can find those titles from practically any online book shop (in Sweden at least).

Mosioatunga, the true story

 Biographies, Fish, Travel  Kommentarer inaktiverade för Mosioatunga, the true story
maj 132011
 

Dr Livingstone I presume is the archetype of  an explorer for most of us. The helmeted man at the head of the line of bearers fearlessly plunging into thick jungles to discover the world untouched by man.  That is the way they write their histories, and that makes for the books that sell. Of course, most of us now realize that wherever Livingstone and his likes went, there was already a human population. In East Africa at the time, there was both the native population, and considerable numbers of Arabian businessmen to show the way to all the discoveries the British needed. And help finding lost explorers from time to time.  The fact is probably  that the major contribution of western explorers was the mapping of the continents. During the 18th and 19th Centuries maps were drawn like never before, and it was new maps, not one more round of Europe encircled by the edge of the world.

Victoria Falls

Victoria Falls Photo John Walker, Public domain

The Center for the History of Science at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences is the guardian of enormous archives of objects, maps, drawings, and manuscripts that will eventually help toward understanding how our knowledge of the world gradually developed over the last few Centuries. The Center is highlighting some of its material as ”object of the month”, since a few months back. One of these objects is a map sent to the Academy by Charles Andersson in 1852. It is a map made by Oswell and Livingstone  based on interviews with local informants. Interestingly, this map  of southern Africa from 1852 shows the Victoria Falls. The falls that, legend has it, Livingstone discovered in 1855. Not, he already had a map. The local name of the falls is now rendered as Mosi-oa-Tunya, on the old map they appear as Mosioatunga.

Portrait of Charles AnderssonAnd who was Charles Andersson, by the way? Some may be familiar with Oreochromis andersonii. That is the fish named after him, but somehow, the author, Castelnau, misspelt the name by dropping one of the ses in Andersson. Karl Johan Andersson, Swedish,born 1827 in the county of Värmland, was the son of the English hunter and writer Llewellyn Lloyd and a Swedish girl, Caisa Andersdotter. Lloyd spent most of his adult life in Värmland hunting bears and writing about it. Karl studied Zoology at Lund University and learned taxidermy at the natural history museum in Göteborg. He somehow got the idea of going to the Africa, and stranded already in London he became a friend of a distant relative, Francis Galton, yes the very one who discovered the fingerprinting technique. Galton and Andersson went to Africa, and Andersson spent the rest of his life as a trader, hunter, collector and more in what is now Namibia and South Africa, and much of that time in the field. Andersson was not an ichthyologist. He did collect a lot of birds. Not less than 2523 bird specimens from him are in museum collections (Dean, Sandwidth & Milton, 2006). He sent 200 or more specimens to the Gothenburg museum in 1864, but the curator there didn’t bother to open the boxes. Andersson wrote a classical travel book, Lake Ngami, published 1856, based on travels including to Lake Ngami (already ’discovered’ by Livingstone). His second travel book, Okavango River, from 1861, relates his own major discovery, the river of the same name. Or … did he discover it?

Andersson’s zoological magnum opus, Notes on the birds of Damaraland, was published posthumously by  John Henry Guerney in 1872. Andersson died of dysentery and physical wounds in 1867 on his way back from a failed expedition to the Cunene River on the border between Angola and Namibia. Andersson’s life is full of misery, hardships, diseases, fights with employees and local chiefs, and the one drawback after the other. The most disappointing must have been the search for Lake Ngami, only to find it already found. It is a miracle he survived so long. His companion Axel W. Eriksson (1846-1901),  also Swedish, carried on the zoological collection and brought a huge collection of southern African birds to to Vänersborgs Museum in Western Sweden (available in an online database with images, all in Swedish).

The consensus (remember the map above) must be that there is (and was) nothing to discover on this planet, really. That is why science is not so much about discovery. It is about exploration and communication. Showing what the world is like, drawing the maps and fitting the pieces together. Also, life can be much easier than that of Karl Johan Andersson.

Reference

Bjelfvenstam, B. 1994. Charles John Andersson. Upptäckare Jägare Krigare. Carlssons Bokförlag, Stockholm, 253 pp.

feb 112011
 

The latest issue of the annual proceedings of the Swedish Linnaean Society (Svenska Linnésällskapets Årsskrift, 2010) has an interesting article by Gudrun Nyberg bearing the title Ögontröst En biografi över naturforskaren Bengt Andersson Euphrasén 1755-1796. ( Eyebright A biography of the natural scientist Bengt Andersson Euphrasén 1775-1796. ) Euphrasén is (and was) one of the lesser known Swedish ichthyologists (although I bet most readers will be at a loss to call to mind any number of Swedish ichthyologist at all …). He did not live to see anything significant  ichthyological really accomplished, and his biography is verdict of that. Indeed he may be best known for his book about St. Barthélemy, mainly on plants. That would take us to a different story, though.

Euphrasén was born apparently 26 April 1755, son to a farmer in Myrebo (could translate to ”Antnest” as well as  ”Bognest”) in the western part of Sweden. Himself he seems to have lived in the illusion that he was born sometime  in April 1756. He was baptized Bengt Andersson. Somehow he was given a good education, attending boarding school on Visingsö Island from 1772 as Benedictus Arén Haboënsis. For a while he attended a veterinary curriculum in Skara with the taken name Euphrasén, from the plant Euphrasia stricta (or some other species of Euphrasia). This is the only case I know of where someone has borrowed a scientific name for last name. It is always the other way. Perhaps an easy way of getting oneself a patronym? He returned to and graduated from high school in 1780, immediately  signing on as sailor on a ship to China. Already in school he had become addicted to Botany and now on the trip to and from China he observed and collected fish. Very few of them it seems, five were described as new. Euphrasén wasn’t going to litter ichthyological nominospace.

Back home in 1783 he sold or handed over his catch to a wealthy merchant, Clas Alströmer in Gothenburg, who had a natural history cabinet. From now on Alströmer and Euphrasén interacted in various ways. Alströmer employed Euphrasén to curate his collections and eventually, when his finances fell low, move them to Gåsevadholm Castle in Halland. In 1787 Alströmer obtained support from the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences for a trip to the Swedish West Indies, the island of St. Barthélemy, where Euphrasén made collections, mostly plants. Upon his return Euphrasén marrried to Maria Greta Hallberg and they had a son in 1793, but it seems Euphrasén  left Gothenburg and his family for good in the spring of 1794, after the passing of Alströmer. He moved to Stockholm where he worked in the Academy as some kind of assistant to Anders Sparrman. His manuscript about St. Barthélemy was somehow turned down by the Academy in 1792 following Sparrman’s review, but eventually it came out with Academy support in 1795. Interesting about this St. Barts thing relates to the fish. He had bought two specimens of a strange kind of cod in the harbour of Gothenburg in 1787 but they deteriorated on the way to St. Barts and were discarded. Imagine: collects a new species in Sweden and takes the specimens along to St. Barts, just to lose them to putrefaction, … well, well. Upon return it took some time to find a new one, and only  in 1793 one came into his hands. He described it as Gadus lubb, and quite in vain as it is a synonym of Brosme brosme (Ascanius, 1772).

Aetobatis narinari from Euphrasén 1790

Raja narinari = Aetobatis narinari, described from the Swedish West Indies. Drawing from Euphrasén, 1790, tail not shown.

At some point Euphrasén got himself working on a manuscript about Bohuslän’s fishes. As we all know, that’s all the Swedish marine fauna, and what is beyond that is not much, so at some later point he decided on and completed a Swedish Ichthyology, covering all Swedish fish species. In the late 1700s a national ichthyology was quite something innovative. The Academy, however, apparently refused to print it.  The manuscript, describing 106 species of fishes, is preserved in the library of Lund University. Euphrasén died in December 1796, of hernia. Poor, misunderstood, in conflict with colleagues, writer of masterpieces. There is no portrait.

There is of course a lot more to this biography, for which Gudrun Nyberg’s illustrated article better be consulted. Aside from calling attention to an earlier, relatively unnoticed colleague of mine (the Academy’s natural history collection became the Swedish Museum of Natural History where I work as a curator), I just wish to expose here some aspects of ichthyological concern.

Plants from the St. Barthélemy expedition were bought by Carl Peter Thunberg for the Uppsala University (Wikström 1825), displaying 113 objects online. Others are still in existence in the Botany department of the Swedish Museum of Natural History. They have 106 online  items with Euphrasén as collector. Unfortunately, the fishes seem to be gone altogether. The Swedish Museum of Natural History has specimens from one or more of the many Alströmer and the Academy, but nothing definitely from Euphrasén. Jonas Alströmer, father of Clas, was also a collector of natural history objects, and some part of his collection has found its way at least to the Museum of Evolution in Uppsala, but it still remains to be investigated what happened to the collections of Clas, and those of Euphrasén. The type of Gadus lubb was deposited in the Swedish Museum of Natural History, but apparently is no longer present there.

Interestingly, all of Euphrasén’s fish works are available online in one or another form. The St. Barthélemy treatise is published online by the Biodiversity Heritage Library. The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences are publishing their Transactions online, and they include the four fish papers by Euphrasén. Well, they are all in Swedish, an older form which is not covered by Google Translate, but at least you can admire the elegant woodcuts. Obviously not much was needed those days to get a fish description done. The mystery remains, however: How come Euphrasén, travelling to the two extremes of the world, Asia and America, with all the world’s unknown tropical fish fauna within reach, obviously didn’t make more discoveries? He even failed with two out of three Swedish species, Gadus lubb (Bromse brosme ) and  Gobius ruuthensparri (=Gobiusculus flavescens). Why wasn’t his Swedish Ichthyology published? What makes people become ichthyologists?

The first publication, Trangrums-Acten (” The fish oil sediment document”),  from 1784 happens to be an environmental impact assessment study, maybe the first scientific of its kind in Sweden. At the time, herring was abundant and the production of fish oil boomed along the northern part of the Swedish West Coast. The oil was produced by fermentation and boiling in many hundreds of seaside factories. It was used for just about everything and it made Clas Alströmer and others rich. Regrettably, there was considerable waste of herring liberated from their oil. (The firs major oil sanitation operation in the world?) Waste products were dumped in the sea next to each factory, apparently producing local deoxygenation in addition to enrichening the air with the smell of millions and millions of rotten herring. The Stockholm based central government introduced a number of restrictions to reduce expected habitat detoriation (and curtail the increased wealth and political influence of the west coast companies?). That upset the oil companies, who responded with arguments in Trangrums-Acten. It resulted in the compromise solution to construct shorenear ponds to contain the smelly offal. Clas Alströmer was active in the investigations, but most of the work seems to have resulted from the coordination by Johan Lorenz Rutensparre (1752-1828), actually a naval military, but one of Sweden’s first environmental economists in his spare time.  At a field excursion in 1783, Euphrasén obviously found specimens of a new species, of which  Gobius ruuthensparri was described first in Trangrums-Acten, , but without name.

Bengt Andersson Euphrasén’s bibliography

Note on online content:  Most of he Academy Transaction papers are provided by the Royal Academy of Sciences Center for the History of Science. The German translations of Academy Transactions are provided by the University of Göttingen only up to 1788.

Euphrasén published as Bengt And. Euphrasén; where And. is short for Andersson, his original last name, but it is usually believed to be a first name (Anders). Indeed, in the 1786 paper his name is printed Bengt Anders Euphrasén, but that could be an editorial or printer’s decision. At the time children would automatically have the last name formed from the first name of their father (Euphrasén’s father was named Anders), but to this could be added something more distinctive, so that a double last name was common, as in today’s Latin America, Spain and Portugal. Not to complicate matters further, he is cited as Euphrasén, B.A. below, as people usually do. [It should be Andersson Euphrasén, B.]

Ruuthensparre, J.L., J. Kiermanskiöld & A. Dahl. 1784. Utdrag af den Dagbok, som hölts under en Undersöknings Förrättning i Bohus Länska Skärgården åren 1783 och 1784. Pp. 18-65 In Anonymous.  Trangrums-acten, eller Samling af de handlingar, som med kongl. maj:ts allernådigste tilstånd blifwit des och rikets höglofl. amiralitets- och commerce-collegier tilsände, rörande tran-beredning af sill, uti Bohus länska skärgården, : och bewis derpå, at det uti hafswattnet utkastade trangrums skadar hwarken hamnar, farleder eller fiske, hwilket man tilförene befarat. I anseende til ämnets wigt, almän uplysning och beqwämare bruk, til tryck befordrad af några götheborgare, : som anlagt transiuderier uti Bohus länska skärgården. Stockholm, tryckt i kongl. tryckeriet. [Apparently the fish identifications and notes are by Euphrasén, but he is not mentioned.  A new species of Gobius is mentioned on p. 52, but it it is named only in the 1786 paper, as Gobius ruuthensparri .]

Euphrasén, B.A. 1786. Beskrifning på tvenne Svenska Fiskar. Kongl. Vetenskaps Academiens Nya Handlingar, 7: 64-67.
Gobius Ruuthensparri = Gobiusculus flavescens (Fabricius 1779)
Cottus Bubalis = Taurulus bubalis (Euphrasén, 1786)

Euphrasén, B.A. 1788. Beskrifning på 3:e fiskar. Kongl. Vetenskaps Academiens Nya Handlingar, 9: 51-55.
Trichiurus Caudatus = Lepidopus caudatus (Euphrasén, 1788)
Stromateus argenteus = Pampus argenteus (Euphrasén, 1788)
Stromateus Chinensis = Pampus chinensis (Euphrasén, 1788)

Euphrasén, B.A. 1790. Raja (Narinari). Kongl. Vetenskaps Academiens Nya Handlingar, 11:217-219.
Raja Narinari = Aetobatus narinari (Euphrasén, 1790)

Euphrasén, B.A. 1791. Scomber (Atun) och Echeneis (Tropica). Kongl. Vetenskaps Academiens Nya Handlingar, 12:315-318.
Scomber Atun = Thyrsites atun (Euphrasén, 1791)
Echeneis tropica = Phtheirichthys lineatus (Menzies, 1791)

Euphrasén, B.A. 1794. Gadus Lubb, en ny Svensk fisk beskrifven. Kongl. Vetenskaps Academiens Nya Handlingar, 15: 223-227.
Gadus Lubb = Brosme brosme (Ascanius, 1772).

Euphrasén, B.A. 1795. Beskrifning öfver svenska westindiska ön St. Barthelemi, samt öarne St. Eustache och St. Christopher. Anders Zetterberg, Stockholm, vi + 207 pp.
Perca Holocentrus = Holocentrus adscensionis (Osbeck 1765)

German translations:

Euphrasén, B.A.  1787. Beschreibung von zwey schwedischen Fischen. Der Königlich Schwedischen Akademie der Wissenschaften neue Abhandlungen aus der Naturlehre, Haushaltungskunst und Mechanik. N. S., 7: 62-65.

Euphrasén, B.A.  1788. Beschreibung dreyer Fische. Der Königlich Schwedischen Akademie der Wissenschaften neue Abhandlungen aus der Naturlehre, Haushaltungskunst und Mechanik. N. S., 9: 47-51.

Euphrasén, B. A.   1792. Raja narinari. Der Königlich Schwedischen Akademie der Wissenschaften neue Abhandlungen aus der Naturlehre, Haushaltungskunst und Mechanik. Der Königlich Schwedischen Akademie der Wissenschaften neue Abhandlungen aus der Naturlehre, Haushaltungskunst und Mechanik. N. S., 11: 205-207.

Euphrasén, B.A. 1798. Herrn Bengt And. Euphraséns Reise nach der schwedisch-westindischen Insel St. Barthelemi, und den Inseln St. Eustache und St. Christoph; oder Beschreibung der Sitten, Lebensart der Einwohner, Lage, Beshaffenheit und natürlichen Produkte dieser Inseln.  Aus dem Schwedischen von Joh. Georg Lud. Blumhof. Göttingen.

Non-fish:

Euphrasén, B.A. 1793. Historiskt frögde-qwäde, wid jubel-dagens firande d. 8 martii 1793; af B.A. Euphrasén. Götheborg, tryckt hos Lars Wahlström, 16 pp.

Linné, C. 1792. Archiatern och riddaren Carl von Linnees Termini botanici eller Botaniska ord, samlade och med anmärkningar på swenska öfwersatta af Bengt And. Euphrasén. Götheborg, tryckt hos Lars Wahlström, 76 pp.

Sources

Biographic data were condensed mostly from:

Nyberg, G. 2011. Ögontröst En biografi över naturforskaren Bengt Andersson Euphrasén 1755-1796. Svenska Linnésällskapets Årsskrift, 2010: 69-89.

Thanks to Erik Åhlander for information about possible Euphrasén collections in the Swedish Museum of Natural History, Bodil Kajrup, and the University Library in Gothenburg for assistance with publications. Synonymies were checked against the Catalog of Fishes.

Prickly manes, and a motor in the idle of their backs

 Art, Books, Fish, Ichthyology, taxonomy  Kommentarer inaktiverade för Prickly manes, and a motor in the idle of their backs
feb 012011
 

Book cover of Poseidons steedYES – a book about seahorses!  Poseidon’s Steed, a strange breed of book by the way. Author Helen Scales, appearing in cork screw curl and soft smile on the non-optional author portrait,  a Cambridge doctor with a career in conservation, public outreach and coral reef fish studies, has summed up  a personal, life-long obsession with sea horses.

What I loved with Lady with a spear, the dedication to collecting and preserving fish for scientific study, does not charm this text, written by a diver and marine ecologist, but it has other qualities. To some extent collecting has to be excused here because there are already so many people catching seahorses that the whole subfamily Hippocampinae seems to be about completely pulverized into useless pharmaceuticals. And they are so cute, especially those pregnant males hanging around with  prehensile tails grasped around seaweed. It is probably easy to fall in love with seahorses, and Helen Scales has found every adjective to paint their virtues, beauty and mystery. For this is not just a fish book, it is a natural history and cultural history. After a little while of reading I lower my defense against the dangerously lurking anthropomorphisms and start to enjoy seahorse stories going back to Ancient Mediterranean civilizations and the story of Shennong and the birth of Chinese medicine, and forward to the pointless exploitation of seahorses for Chinese medicine and technical aspects of captive breeding. There is even a chapter about the early history of the aquarium hobby in mid-19th Century England that I found very warming. For those technically oriented there are lists of seahorse species, a map of seahorse distribution, numerous pages of references and a substantial bibliography. The shameless ideas about species discrimination is the only dreary part: ”Imagine you are holding a length of silk ribbon dyed in all the colors of the rainbow; each color represents a different species. But where exactly does one species end and another begin?” The concept of a continuum of species and endless intermediates perpetuated by many ecologists, seems inexterminable.

Chinese medicinal seahorses

Dried seahorses intended for medicinal use

Seahorses are lovely. They are cute, and strange of form. There are a little more than 50 species, the most rectly described Hippocampus paradoxus Foster & Gomon, 2010. Being nothing but curly pipefish, male broods the eggs and alevins, and does so in a pouch fitted to its belly. Freeswimming progeny is left for the currents, which may be hard upon such cute minihorses. However, once coupled a male and female stay a pair for all their life, and that provides the cream topping for the anthropomorphy of the creature. Indeed, pipefish including seahorses, provide important data for studying parental investment. In fish, brood care is commonly left to males (cichlids are an exception), but the brood-care is rarely much more than looking big and fierceful and staying atop of the offspring. Pipefish males stick out as truly live-bearing.

Contemplating seahorses it is easy to forget that it is humans that are like the other animals, and not cutie animals like seahorses and dogs that are like humans. All our behaviour comes from somewhere and has a direct evolutionary line back to an amoeba of sorts. The way we are has probably very little to do with our complex reflective brain that is constantly battered in abstract synaptical storms known as intellectual activity, along with empathy, reflection and self-awareness. Looking around us, it is obvious that human intellect is not favored at all in the animal community. A seahorse is completely unknowing, it does not think, reason, reflect or otherwise interact contemplatively upon its surroundings or its own senses. Although intelligence is not only a function of brain size, brain size in fish is indeed  indicative of abilities of thinking. FishBase has a database of brain size in fish, and you can use FishBase to plot brain weight vs. body weight. The brain of a 6 g seahorse weighs 12 mg (compare an average 1.5 kg in humans), and this is small even for a fish. It does not know it is a loving father and a devote husband, or a divine steed. If it were 12 feet tall it would probably just suck you in using its high-speed vacuum cleaner hose snout. That is not going to happen. Seahorses are forever cute. All this ”human” behaviour in pipefish goes on with 12 mg of brain.  With that, what doesn’t a seahorse male brain indicate that one could minimally expect from a father and husband …?

Scatter of brain weight vs. body weight in fishes: pipefishes in green; a seahorse (Hippocampus histrix in black covering red) and other fish in yellow. Calculated in FishBase

Footnotes:

Seahorses are a genus, Hippocampus, of pipefishes (family Syngnathidae) , belonging to the order Gasterosteiformes (sticklebacks, tube snouts, and the like). FishBase has information about 54 species of Hippocampus (as of 1 February 2010).

Poseidon’s Steed is published by Gotham Books and available from all online book dealers. The paperback has 261 pages and a block of black and white photos. ”This is one charming book about one charming fish.” (Quote from the back cover).

The heading of this commentary is from a quote in Poseidon’s Steed, taken from Daily Telegraph, London, 1869.

Seahorse scan by Sven O Kullander, CC-BY-NC.

Day 1, 2011

 Books, Cichlids, Danios, Fish, meetings  Kommentarer inaktiverade för Day 1, 2011
jan 012011
 

As the snow whirls around and the cold fills up the atmosphere, the new year brings a welcome day off to be taken care of. Dough is rising and breakfast bread will be served in an hour or so. Family is sleeping, stoned by the unusual late hours to sit through the paradox of a year and decade shift without anything really happening. Only computers worldwide automatically shifting display date, steadfast from Australia westwards. It takes 24 hours to shift from one day to another, or does it?

The past autumn proved hectic to the limit of sustainability and blogging plummeted, so there is something to be caught up on.  Most of last year wasn’t in the plus column, however, so there is a lot to be expected from this one. The highlights of the past twelve months that come to mind spontaneously were:

The FishBase Symposium 2010 in Stockholm, October 18, featuring a fantastic series of talks by highly successful, competent and enthusiastic personality scientists covering all of what it takes to be a fish systematist, not least the field work and the need for specimens, not only tissue samples to do systematics, Melanie Stiassny, Maurice Kottelat, Tan Heok Hui, Richard Pyle, Jörg Freyhof, Anthony Gill, moderated by one more star, Ralf Britz. The audicence enjoyed the show tremendeously, and so did I. There is a report to download, most of it in Swedish, but there is always Google Translate.

Te Yu Liao’s PhD dissertation defence with Paul Skelton as opponent, 18 November. Te Yu has been with us at NRM since 2006 working on a revision of Rasbora and similar fishes. It has resulted in several phylogenetic studies, and several morepapers, altogether seven publications,  included in the dissertation (A phylogenetic analysis of the rasborins (Cyprinidae: Danioninae: Rasborini)) but still to be published. These papers provide a new framework for danionine systematics and are based on both morphology and molecules. Some of the papers are:

  • Fang, F., M. Norén, T.Y. Liao, M. Källersjö & S.O. Kullander. 2009. Molecular phylogenetic interrelationships of the South Asian cyprinid genera Danio, Devario and Microrasbora (Teleostei, Cyprinidae, Danioninae). Zoologica Scripta, 38: 237-256.
  • Liao, T.Y., S.O. Kullander & F. Fang. 2010. Phylogenetic analysis of the genus Rasbora (Teleostei: Cyprinidae). Zoologica Scripta, 39:155-176.
  • Pramod, P.K., F. Fang, K. Rema Devi, T.-Y. Liao, T.J. Indra, K.S. Jameela Beevi & S.O. Kullander. 2010. Betadevario ramachandrani, a new danionine genus and species from the Western Ghats of India (Teleostei: Cyprinidae: Danioninae). Zootaxa, 2519: 31-47.

Peter Cottle’s book about danios (Danios and Devarios) came out in December, and made a great holiday gift. The title of the foreword (which I wrote …) summarises the opus: Passion. I will get back to this book and others, but suspecting the edition may be somewhat limited, I would recommend you to get your copy now …

What is up now:

There will be more danionine papers, several already in press

A long series of cichlid papers are in an advanced state, both on African and South American cichlids

FishBase will organise three meetings this year: the annual FishBase Minisymposium with the FishBase Consortium, the annual Swedish FishBase symposium, and triannual Artedi Lectures

The first volume about fish in The Encyclopedia of the Swedish Flora and Fauna series will be published in May or so. This volume covers all species of chordates occurring in Sweden from cephalochordates to chondrichthyans, authored by me, Thomas Stach (tunicates) and Henning Blom (introductions to chordates and vertebrates). The illustrations, however, may be the major reason to look forward to this book. They are all new, and all the Swedish fishes are superbly illustrated from scratch by Linda Nyman and Karl Jilg (I haven’t seen the tunicate illustrations).

And I will go to Iceland. All my life I strived to go south, to warmth, but my former student, Georg Friðriksson, who is now an ichthyologist with the Náttúruminjasafn Íslands, has assured me that Iceland is not covered with ice and snow in the summer (or has he? May have to ask again). They have fantastic fish, all kinds of ecophenotypes of char, but also sticklebacks.

As you can see, 2011 looks all bright, new, and worth living.

In the media: WWF and Danio tinwini

 Danios, Fish  Kommentarer inaktiverade för In the media: WWF and Danio tinwini
okt 062010
 
Danio tinwini

Danio tinwini, living specimen. Photo Sven O Kullander CC-BY-NC

The little fish hit the headlines today, in WWF’s press release on their report on species described from South East Asia in 2009. Although the cover honours a radically crimson dracula fish (Danionella dracula), page 11 is devoted to Danio tinwini, subject of a longer treatise in this irregular blog.

Of course there are other rare or spectacular things in that report which is well worth downloading. WWF has counted 145 new species as described from what they call the Greater Mekong area. Twenty-six species are fish, four of them from my lab:

  • Danio aesculapii Kullander & Fang
  • Danio quagga Kullander, Liao & Fang
  • Danio tinwini Kullander & Fang
  • Devario xyrops Fang & Kullander

Of course, it is nice of WWF to highlight the species diversity in the region, and there may very well be another 26 species described every year, on and on. It is also welcome that WWF and others are putting funds and energy into conservation efforts of critical areas or whole ecosystems. This work is badly needed; every living thing in the tropics is at risk, and a greater risk every day. It is unfortunate, however, that practically all those discoveries are done with a minimum of funding only, or just out of devotion.  Taxonomy and discovery is underfunded. Where is the money for the discovery, description, and mapping of all the unknown biodiversity?

On October 18, FishBase Sweden organises its annual Symposium. This time the theme is discovery. The importance of exploring new areas, and discovering new species and analysing the evolutionary history of those life forms.  The programme is available from the FishBase Sweden website.

On being a plagiarized artist

 Not categorized  Kommentarer inaktiverade för On being a plagiarized artist
sep 052010
 

News have it those days that the mildly spectacular art produced by Damien Hirst actually reproduce the works of earlier installation artists. I am not mentioned, but I am sure I must be one of them. Damien Hirst is the artist who used, among similar activities, to pickle big fish is glass tanks and sell them for fabulous sums.

Shark in formalin tank

Damien Hirst: The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Image from Wikimedia is copyright, and is used here only because it is necessary for the discussion here.

The world’s museums art teeming with this kind of artwork. I was down in the fluid collection building here in Stockholm the other day, with a group of non-biologists, and as we were talking it did strike me what a marvelous exhibition we were standing in. Our collection is semi-open, so wherever you turn you are surrounded by glasses of fish and other animals, big and small, glass of different height and design, dirty or shiny, with alcohol from transparent to dark tea. And if you are lucky, the light falls so that you are yourself mirrored around the curves of the containers. There is beauty and dignity in the works of all curators in the past assembling and conserving those collections, and in the animals and animalicules themselves. A beauty from within, which is the beauty that comes with all the knowledge and wisdom embedded both in the objects themselves and in their potential for scientific research. What can be more attractive than the essence of scientific quest?

I would not call in the copycat shark installations. I and collegues have done better pieces for centuries, arranged them better, and we know how to preserve the soul of a fish. Our fish are not cheap either. It costs enormously to keep scientific collections. But that’s were the money should go. If you think of spending on pickled fish, talk to me …

Museum Wormianum

Ole Worm's(1588–1654) cabinet of curiosities. From Wikimedia, public domain

Indeed, today’s scientific collections sprang out of the whim of the 17th-18th Century curiosity cabinets, later natural history cabinets, maintained by individuals of the nobility or wealthy, and those were not primarily scientific, but art exhibits, specimens carefully chosen (or according to one’s purse) , cabinets meticulously handcrafted, and displays harmonizing with architecture and style of decoration. Everything after that pretending to be art is a bleak copy of the creations of the hands of mostly nameless master taxidermists and other conservators.

What, me envious?

Rather than worry, this is a strong recommendation to spend the weekend, or any day, at the nearest museum. Find the fish in ethanol, they are not many those days because of fire regulations, bleaching in light exposures, and the general trend in natural history museum exhibitions to prefer paper, plastic, and LCD  screens.  If you find one, maybe it conveys the sense of  the physical impossibility of death in the mind of someone living, maybe something else, or maybe you are just happy that I reminded you of the richnesses of the world’s natural history museums and scientific collections.

Freud as an ichthyologist

 Biographies, Fish  Kommentarer inaktiverade för Freud as an ichthyologist
aug 112010
 

Life is full of surTitle of Freud paper on Lampreyprises, strange revelations, or maybe just shortcut or short memory. Tidying up my office the other day, this tractate caught hold of my curious eye.  A not so short dissertation of the spinal ganglia and the spinal cord in the lamprey, authored by the medical student Sigm. Freud [Sigmund Freud], and published in the Proceedings of the royal Academy of Sciences in Vienna, Austria in 1878. Same journal which carried so many of the more famous ichthyologist Franz Steindachner.

Wow, psychoanalysis started with the dissection of the central nervous system of one of the most primitive fishes! Only hagfish is lower on the tree, beyond that there are only invertebrates. Or maybe not. Whereas Freud’s ichthyological career passed relatively unnoticed among ichthyologists, he is well known as a neuroanatomist among the physiologists (neurophysiologists, to be precise). He started his career with eel, spending four weeks trying to find male eel in Trieste, Italy. Up till then testes had not been found in European eel. His studies on lampreys resulted in two papers and one methodological note; the eel study in one paper, somewhat inconclusive, but later confirmed to have located the testes. Freud apparently preferred neuroanatomy and remained with this subject for years.

Is that a cigar, or ...

My recollection of Freudian psychoanalysis (in which fish are scarce) is the more frequently told interpretation of snakes in dreams as the [fear of] penises. The myriad of dream analysis scam sites on the web nodd affirmatively. But we all know Freud must have been inspired by the eels and lampreys more than snakes into developing his untestable dream explanations. And people rarely dream about eels and even less about lampreys. They rather dream of snakes, although there were never any snakes in the dreams I remember (but plenty of fish). So, on the simple side of having it, psychoanalysis is all about slithering fish.

I doubt there is any 20th Century ichthyologist more famous than Sigmund Freud. Regrettably for him, he is not in boldface in the annals of fish science. For what I can find there are more batmani or [led] zeppelini than freudi among fish, so not even more famous than a comics character or a guitar hero (not a single freudi, in fact). I am not sure this entry does anything to help improve on the recognition and fame of Sigmund Freud, but I am sure many will be interested to know about this connection between the eel and the mind.

Freud’s ichthyological contributions

  • Freud, S. 1877. Über den Ursprung der hinteren Nervenwurzeln im Rückenmarke von Ammocoetes (Petromyzon Planeri). Sitzungsberichte Mathematisch-Naturwissenschaftlichen Classe der der k. Akademie der Wissenschaften, Wien, Abt. III, 75: 15-27.
  • Freud, S. 1877. Beobachtungen über Gestaltung und feineren Bau der als Hoden beschriebenen Lappenorgane des Aals. Sitzungsberichte der Mathematisch-Naturwissenschaftlichen Classe der k. Akademie der Wissenschaften, Wien, Abt. III, 75: 419-431.
  • Freud, S. 1878. Über Spinalganglien und Rückenmark des Petromyzon. Sitzungsberichte der Mathematisch-Naturwissenschaftlichen Classe der k. Akademie der Wissenschaften, Wien, Abt. III, 78: 81–167.
  • Freud, S. 1879. Eine Notiz über eine Methode zur anatomischen Präparation des Nervensystems. Zentralblatt der medizinischen Wissenschaft, 17/26: 468-469.

The mouth of a dead lamprey

Species referenced
Otocinclus batmani Lehmann, 2006 in Neotropical Ichthyology
Lepidocephalichthys zeppelini Havird & Tangjitjaroen, 2006 in Zootaxa
The lamprey studied by Freud may have been Lampetra planeri

Image credits
Freud portrait by Max Halberstadt, modified; original public domain; modified CC-BY-NC Sven Kullander, 2010
Other images Sven Kullander, CC-BY-NC, 2010

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