« PreviousContinue »
The paper nests of these social wasps (Polybioides melaina) of the Belgian Congo are found attached to branches overhanging streams. The outside covering consists of several layers of thin brittle "paper" with numerous entrance and exit galleries. Within this outer envelope the combs of cells in which the larvæ are reared hang side by side. Some of the nests are three feet in length so that with their dense population and numerous exits they become, when in the least disturbed, immediate centers of trouble for the intruding observer. Even Stanley, the first white man to enter this region, found the black wasps worthy of comment and attention
This photograph shows in natural size a tropical African wasp (Synagris cornuta) sitting outside the doorway of her clay nest. The nest was found to enclose four irregularly united cells, one empty and the others containing respectively a fully developed wasp, a translucent white pupa, and a fullgrown larva. During the larval stage the wasp is fed daily on a meat diet. To rear the larva from the egg to the full-grown larva at the time when the cell must be sealed requires about one month in the case of this species (the habits of this horned synagris have been explained on the preceding page)
SCIENTIFIC ZOOLOGICAL PUBLICATIONS
primitive habit of the Eumeninæ, hurriedly accumulating a provision of caterpillars above the egg, then walling the orifice of the cell, and taking no further care of their offspring. In other species, however, the maternal instinct is much more perfect; the female nurses her young from day to day with caterpillars ground up into a paste; this is evidently a transition toward the feeding habits of the true social wasps. Intermediate conditions between these two extremes are also found.”
Researches on Fishes and on Amphibians
Mr. Carl L. Hubbs, of the University of Chicago, has written1 concerning the variation, distribution, habits, and relationships of fishes belonging to the genus Atherinops and living on the Pacific coast of North America. They are smelts of several intergrading varieties. . After a consideration of the possible migrations leading up to the present distribution of the genus the author says: "It seems probable, on the basis of the evidence available, that the coarserscaled type of Atherinops, subsequent to the northward migration of the finer-scaled type and to the separation of the southern islands from the mainland, has likewise moved northward, meeting the finer-scaled type on the central coast of California. By the interbreeding of the two forms in this region the peculiar hybrid-like intergrades have probably arisen. Now, if this intergradation should spread more widely, or if the typical form on either side should become extinct or differentiated, then, according to the above explanation, we should have a synthetic species produced not by divergence but rather by the fusion of two species which were formerly distinct."
Mr. J. T. Nichols, of the American Museum, contributed two taxonomic papers on fishes. One2 deals with the genus l'omer, the material having come from the mouth of the Congo and from the Antilles. The other paper 3 treats of material brought back from
1 Hubbs, Carl L. 1918. The Fishes of the Genus Atherinops, Their Variation, Distribution, Relationships, and History. Bull. Amer. Mus. Nat. Hist., XXXVIII, Art. 13, pp. 409-40.
2 Nichols, J. T. 1918. On Vomer dorsalis, with a Brief Review of the Genus. Bull. Amer. Mus. Nat. Hist., XXXVIII, Art. 18, pp. 669–76.
3 Nichols, J. T. 1918. Some Marine Fishes from Northwest Greenland. Bull. Amer. Mus. Nat. Hist., XXXVIII, Art. 19, pp. 677–83.
Greenland by the Crocker Land Expedition.
A report by Mr. G. K. Noble, assistant curator of herpetology in the American Museum, covers the amphibians collected by the American Museum Expedition to Nicaragua. The Expedition obtained twentyseven species of frogs and toads, some of these very rare in collections. Two species of amphibians were described as new. One of these belonged to that curious group of Central American salamanders which have their digits bound together by fleshy webs. These salamanders are equally adapted for life in the trees or on the ground. The other new species was related to those tiny Neotropical tree frogs which, in the course of evolution, have dispensed with their vomerine teeth. Frogs of many different genera have become small, and have lost the vomerine teeth. In the Amphibia, teeth as a specific character are structures easily lost or acquired. Two of the tree frogs collected show remarkable adaptation to their environment: Agolchynis helena has the appearance of a green leaf which has been attacked by leaf mold; its whole back is vivid green with a few scattered spots of yellowish brown. Hyla boulengeri is colored very much like the lichens so abundant on the forest trees of Nicaragua. The scene on the Rio Grande, accompanying the report, was taken in the central part of Nicaragua. It was here that the Expedition camped while hunting the many forms of reptiles and amphibians which frequent the river banks of these remote Central American rivers.
Researches on Birds
Mr. R. C. Murphy, of the Brooklyn Museum, added another "Contribution from the Brewster-Sanford Collection." This one discusses the taxonomy, plumages, migration, breeding, and food of the Atlantic petrels, or Mother Carey's chickens, belonging to the genus Oceanites. On page 340 is shown a flock of these birds skipping along the surface of New York Bay.
This paper establishes the fact that Wilson's petrel of the North Atlantic is the
Noble, G. K. 1918. The Amphibians Collected by the American Museum Expedition to Nicaragua in 1916. Bull. Amer. Mus. Nat. Hist., XXXVIII, Art. 10, pp. 311-47, Pls. XIV-XIX.
Murphy, R. C. 1918. A Study of the Atlantic Oceanites. Bull. Amer. Mus. Nat. Hist., XXXVIII, Art. 4, pp. 117-46, Pls. I-III.
same bird as that found in the far South, the southern bird migrating, after its breeding season, to the North Atlantic. This is proved in two ways: first, by a continuous record of migration made from daily observation of the birds between the latitude of New York and 54 degrees south latitude; and second, by a study of specimens taken at many points in the North, South, and
tropical Atlantic. The paper also describes for the first time the immature plumage of the petrel, the sequence of molt, and gives new data on the seasons and rate of migration.
Another bird paper is by Dr. Jonathan Dwight. It deals with the snow birds called Juncos and is illustrated by three color plates. The new aspect referred to in its
title is given in the author's summary as follows: "Instead of accepting the presence or absence of intergradation as a guide by which to separate species from subspecies, I have endeavored to show that species may be recognized by qualitative, and subspecies by quantitative characters. Specific and subspecific characters in most of the Juncos are almost wholly confined to color and therefore by mapping the geographical distribution of color we are able to gain from a new angle a fairly distinct impression of relationships in this genus.
Even if I am overestimating the rôle played by hybrids we very much need a nomenclature that will indicate better than at present the intermediate as well as the extreme portions of lines of variation. Zoologists and botanists, by actual experiment, have of late years so revolutionized ideas regarding species and hybrids that systematic ornithologists are likely to be looked upon as backward and unscientific unless they learn more of fluctuations and mutations, of manifestations of Mendelian and other laws, and all the modern theory that goes with them."
This Nicaragua frog, Hyla boulengeri (Cope), has previously been known only from the type specimen in the National Museum at Washington, described by Cope in 1887. Note its peculiarly long and flat snout. Its coloration gives close resemblance to the patches of lichens on the trees where it lives
A scene in central Nicaragua along the wooded shores of the Rio Grande, haunt of the rare Hyla boulengeri. This was one of the camping sites of the American Museum Nicaragua Expedition in 1916
1 Dwight, Jonathan, 1918. The Geographic Distribution of Color and of Other Variable Characters in the Genus Junco: a New Aspect of Specific and Subspecific Values. Bull. Amer. Mus. Nat. Hist., XXXVIII, Art. 9, pp. 269-309, Pls. XI-XIII.
A New Director for the British Museum
SIDNEY FREDERICK HARMER, F.R.S., ENGLISH ZOÖLOGIST, APPOINTED TO THE POSITION PREVIOUSLY HELD BY EMINENT SCIENTISTS, OWEN, FLOWER, LANKESTER, AND FLETCHER
NNOUNCEMENT comes from London of the retirement of Sir Lazarus Fletcher, F.R.S., from the directorship of the British Museum (Natural History), and of the appointment of Dr. Sidney Frederick Harmer, F.R.S., the present keeper of zoology, to fill the vacancy. The retiring director is noted as a mineralogist. He was formerly keeper of minerals in the British Museum, and succeeded Sir E. Ray Lankester as director of the Natural History Museum in 1910.
The appointment of Dr. Harmer was made at a meeting of the Electing Trustees of the British Museum, namely, the Lord Chancellor, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the Speaker of the House of Commons. His appointment as the director of the Natural History Departments places a zoologist of distinction in the place of the distinguished mineralogist. Dr. Harmer will retain the keepership of zoology until the end of the year 1920. During that period the assistant secretary, Mr. C. E. Fagan, I.S.O., will assist the director in the details of control of the Natural History Museum. Dr. Harmer was formerly a Fellow of King's College, lecturer in zoology, and superintendent of the University Museum of Zoology. He is a leading authority on invertebrate zoology and has published many papers on polyzoa, and with Dr. Shipley, now vice-chancellor of the University of Cambridge, he edited the Cambridge Natural History. In 1907 he was appointed keeper of zoology at the Natural History Museum, and at once threw himself into his new duties with vigor. He has studied in particular the fauna of the sea, and, following the example of his great predecessor, the late Sir William Flower, he has paid special attention to whales. He has taken a deep interest in the conservation of animals, and has advised the Colonial Office on the preservation of whales and seals. He is one of the vice-presidents of the Zoological Society.
Any event in the development of the British Museum representing, as it does, the
oldest and greatest museum of the Englishspeaking peoples of the world, is of interest to the American Museum. We like to feel that the welfare of our Museum is closely associated with the welfare of the museum in London. The American Museum of Natural History has historical connection through its scientific founder, Dr. Albert S. Bickmore, with the British Museum of Natural History. More than fifty years ago, Dr. Bickmore, after three years (1865-67) spent in the Dutch East Indies, China, Japan, and Siberia, stopped in London on his way home, where he showed Sir Richard Owen, at that time director of the British Museum, the plans for a natural history museum in New York, which had been maturing in his mind during his long journey in the East. Sir Richard expressed general approval of the plan, thereby greatly encouraging the young traveler. Later, when the great ground plan of the American Museum appeared, Dr. Bickmore incorporated in it a large central lecture hall, the feature included in Sir Richard Owen's plans for the British Museum.
Another indebtedness that we feel to the British Museum came through the engagement of Mrs. E. S. Mogridge and her brother, Mr. H. Mintorn, to prepare the first of our bird habitat groups, after methods which had been introduced in the British Museum. They prepared thirty-seven of these small groups for the American Museum, the first series being placed on exhibition in 1887, and the second series a year later. A third, and still stronger bond of union sprang from Sir William Flower's influence on museum development, not only upon the museums of Great Britain, but upon those in this country as well. Sir William was for many years director of the British Museum.
Still another bond exists because of the courtesy of the older institution in welcoming members of the scientific staff from New York to study within the hospitable walls of the British Museum. Such coöperation has been given in the researches of Dr. J. A.
Allen on birds and South American mammals; of Dr. William K. Gregory on fossil and recent primates; of Dr. Daniel Giraud Elliot, for whose great monograph on recent primates every facility was accorded, not only in placing material at his disposal but also in aiding Mr. A. E. Anderson to make many of the photographs for that work at the British Museum; of Professor Bashford Dean and Dr. Louis Hussakof in their work on fossil fishes; and of Professor Henry Fairfield Osborn on the Mesozoic Mammalia, a work which has proved to be of great influence in palæontology. Indeed, there is scarcely a member of the American Museum staff who has not at some time enjoyed the facilities courteously placed at his disposal by the British Museum.
Finally, the two institutions have been brought together more than ever before through the close bonds of allied scientific sympathy which have been created in the great war. Steps are being taken to unite more than one division of the respective museum staffs into similar scientific organizations.
The National Research Council of America, one of the best outgrowths here of the war, is endeavoring to internationalize all the sciences, through a permanent coöperative society. Affiliation in chemistry, astronomy, and palæontology is under way. This suggests and leads the way to affiliation and coöperation between the museums. The American Museum hopes, not only to renew and strengthen the bonds which already exist between the American and British institutions, but also to bring about new means of coöperation and interchange of ideas, with exchanges of specimens and of methods of exhibition.
During the publicity and discussion which have come in England at this time of change of administration in the Natural History Museum there have been expressed certain ideals of the British Museum and of its of fice of director. These concern the scientific and educational status of the institution and as such are of interest because of their possible wide application. We quote from the London Times of February 27, the following, with full agreement: "The director has to represent natural history to the public, to
other scientific institutions at home, in the Dominions and Colonies, and in foreign countries, and to the many Government Departments with which the museum has relations. There are few posts with such possibilities of advancing the natural history sciences, of making them useful to the nation, and of interpreting them to the public.”
From the Times of March 5, we quote the following in order to help in refuting it: "Work in natural history is divisible into two-the formation and study of collections on the one side, and teaching on the other; the former mainly done at museums, the latter at universities."
The truth is that both universities and museums are teaching in character although they employ different general methods, and at the present rate of growth of the museum as a practical educator, its future competition with the university is likely to bring modification of method in both institutions.
The further truth is that both institutions are fundamentally research in character, with the educational output based on this research. An eminent English naturalist has answered in part this old-fashioned distinetion between universities and museums, writing in the Times of March 9: "The classification of naturalists into those who teach and those who form and study collections is very loose and misleading. Teaching in science is bound up with research, and research in laboratories is knit into one with research in museums. [The museum research laboratory should differ in no way from the university research laboratory!] There is no sharp division of interest such as your correspondent assumes, either between the universities and the national museums, or between teaching and the collections within the universities themselves."
In the history of museum growth there has been a preliminary time of development of collections, and of accomplishment of a laborious mass of systematic and descriptive work on them. For most groups this work has been pretty well in hand, however, for some years; and the idea that a museum is limited to collections and taxonomy is nowhere extant except in the minds of a few who have not kept themselves informed as to the development of the modern museum.