Friday, 8 August 2014

Even more highlights from’The Rarest of the Rare.Stories behind the Treasures at the Harvard Natural History Museum’

Curator of fossil insects, Frank Morton Carpenter collected 5000 well-preserved Permian fossil insects in Oklahoma in 1939. His finds were not published until 1947, partly due to the pressures of World War II and partly due to the amount of study required! The trophy piece of the collection is the largest complete insect wing ever found - over 35cms in length!

At the age of 90, in 1992, he made his greatest contribution to palaeontology by publishing a 2 volume treatise of fossil insects worldwide, part of the series, ‘Treatise in Invertebrate Palaeontology’.

Another trophy piece is the shell of the largest species of turtle, fossil or living, ever found. Two carapaces of the 6 million year old Stupendemys (meaning ‘astonishing turtle’)geographicus, were found in Venezuela in 1972, measuring over 7 foot across. The largest shell measuring 7 feet 7 inches across, became the property of the Science Museum in Caracas, Venezuela. Harvard’s shell is 7 feet 2 inches across.

Richard Johnson, a gentleman scholar of molluscs, affiliated to the museum named an extraordinary looking shell, Hyundella fannyae, to honour his then girlfriend, Fanny Farwall.
The shell was remarkable for the development of its posterior ridge and consequent swelling in the post-basal region.(…fanny like…)

Some years later he named a mussel Anodenta peggyae after his wife, Peggy. A few years on he named a shell Margarititufera marrinanae after his second wife Marrian.

Of course there are plenty of humorous or curious zoological names. A beetle named Agra vation, a wasp Heerz lukenatcha, a couple of trilobites after the Rolling Stones: Aegrotocatellus jagger and Peririrehaedulus richardsi. Montypythonoides is a fossil snake.

A wasp has been named Polemistus chewbacca, after the Star Wars character. A fly, Dicrotendpes thanatogratus is named after the Grateful Dead and a tree frog Hyla stingi named after the rock musician Sting. Linnaeus, the biologist who established the way we name species, actually named a weed Siegesbeckia after John Siegesbeck who he did not like.

Any more examples from readers?!