The Zoologist/4th series, vol 2 (1898)/Issue 690/Editorial Gleanings

Editorial Gleanings (December, 1898)
editor W.L. Distant

Published in: The Zoologist, 4th series, vol 2, issues 690 (December, 1898), p. 516–520

4109145Editorial GleaningsDecember, 1898editor W.L. Distant


The following extract from the Address of the Chairman, Dr. P.L. Sclater, on opening the Seventh Session of the British Ornithologists' Club, refers to the successful completion of a great conception:—

"As the Editors of 'The Ibis' have already remarked in their preface to the volume for the present year, one of the leading ornithological events of 1898 is the completion of the 'Catalogue of Birds.' The twenty-sixth volume of this work, prepared by Dr. Bowdler Sharpe and Mr. Ogilvie Grant, the only one required to finish the series, will. I am assured, be laid before the Trustees at their meeting on the 22nd inst., and be ready for issue very shortly afterwards. Thus, after a period of twenty-five years, this most important piece of ornithological work has been brought to a conclusion. No human product is perfect, and the Catalogue has been, and will be, the subject of many criticisms. One obvious defect in it is its want of uniformity, the various authors having been permitted, owing to the wise discretion of the authorities, very liberal opportunities for the expression of their own views in their respective portions, although a general adherence to one plan has been rightly insisted upon. But when the enormous amount of labour required for this work and the absolute necessity of employing more than one author upon such a huge task are considered, it will be obvious that greater uniformity was practically unattainable. In the case of the 'Catalogue of Reptiles and Batrachians,' where the series of specimens and species was not so large, the herpetologists are fortunate in having had the whole of the work performed upon a uniform system by the indefatigable energy of a single naturalist. The 'Catalogue of Birds,' as complete in twenty-seven volumes, gives us an account of 11,614 species of this Class of Vertebrates, divided into 2255 genera and 124 families. It has been prepared by eleven authors, all Members of the British Ornithologists' Union, and, with one exception, I believe (who is not a resident in England), now or formerly Members of this Club. I think it will be universally allowed that we have, in this case, a great and most useful undertaking brought to a successful conclusion."

We have received the Report of Trustees for the year 1897 of the Australian Museum, Sydney. Commercial prosperity reacts in a beneficial manner on scientific institutions. There must be a revenue to make grants possible, and if, as we know, the trader usually precedes the missionary, 80 commerce provides the funds for science. In that spirit we may well say “‘ Advance Australia ” when we read as follows:—

“No fully organised collecting expeditions have been despatched, as the Trustees had not sufficient available funds for this purpose, but a few short trips were made by members of the staff, partly at their own expense. The most important of these was made possible through the kindness of Mr. Septimus Robinson, who invited the Trustees to send a collector to Buckiinguy Station for a fortnight, and gave him every assistance and generous hospitality, the only expense to the Trustees being the railway fares and the preserving material. A number of much-needed specimens were obtained in this way, and the thanks of the Trustees are due to Mr. Robinson for his assistance. <A very great need on the Museum staff is that of a trained collector. The stock of duplicate specimens is very low, and it is difficult to replenish the exhibited collections as required, and impossible to deal fully with other Museums in the way of exchange. At present the funds at the disposal of the Trustees will not permit of such an appointment being made, and this is the more to be regretted when it is seen that Museums and Institutions in other countries are sending their collectors to Australia and taking the best specimens out of the country, so that Australian types are largely located in London, Norway, &c.”

A Frenchman, M. Bourdarie by name, is agitating just now in the interests of the Elephant. He is appealing to the French Government and the King of the Belgians for support. Every year 40,000 Elephants are killed in Africa for the sake of their ivory, and M. Bourdarie fears that, like the Buffaloes in America, these useful animals will become exterminated if something is not done to limit the number killed. He considers that the Elephant instead of being destroyed should be protected to serve the future agriculturists of Central Africa, as the Elephant is the only animal that can work in these regions. In the meantime ivory is still an important article of commerce in Central Africa, and the problem is how to get the ivory without killing the Elephant.—South Africa.

An extraordinary catch of Sprats occurred on Thursday, Nov. 17th, just west of Shoreham Harbour, about fifteen boats being kept going throughout the morning and afternoon bringing the fish to the shore. In nearly every instance the boats were loaded to such an extent that had there been any sea on to speak of they would undoubtedly have been swamped. In one case a boat containing between fifty and sixty bushels burst. The Sprats were unusually large. The last catch of any similar magnitude off Shoreham occurred in 1878.—The West Sussex Gazette. The London steamer 'Oceana,' which was returning from an interesting scientific expedition off the west coast of Ireland, was driven into Cork Harbour for refuge during the recent gale. The object of the expedition, which was under the auspices of the British Museum, was to explore the ocean within 200 miles off the coast of Cork and Kerry for specimens of aquatic life, and whatever general knowledge could be obtained. Mr. Murray, who had charge of the operations, stated to a correspondent at Cork that the expedition had been most successful. Soundings were taken at various depths to a maximum of 2000 fathoms, as far as 200 miles west of the Fastnet, and several interesting and some curious specimens were procured. These will be arranged and classified, which must occupy a considerable time, and a report will then be written upon them for the British Museum.—Daily Mail.

The example of Mr. Rhodes is to be followed in Australia, the Victoria Government having determined to reserve 91,000 acres at Wilson's Promontory as a huge national Zoo wherein all the native animals, which will otherwise soon become extinct, will be able to live and breed. It is, by the way, an example which might well be followed nearer home. The English "fauna" is not very extensive, but it is exceedingly interesting, and is rapidly diminishing. There is plenty of land in the island which would answer the purpose admirably, and which is useless for almost everything else.—Globe.

We have already (ante, p. 449) called attention to a proposed Zoological Society of Edinburgh. We are now glad to learn that as the result of a meeting held last week a committee has been appointed to formulate a scheme for a zoological garden in Edinburgh. It was mentioned at the meeting that letters asking information had been addressed to the secretaries of various existing gardens, and it appeared to be the opinion that the two best suited to the requirements of Edinburgh were Dublin and Bristol, each of which has an income of about £3000 a year from an average of about 120,000 visitors. Prof. Cossar Ewart, in strongly commending the proposal, spoke of it as being painful to think that many children grew up in Scotland without having ever seen many of the animals they heard so much about. Forty years ago there was a zoological garden at Edinburgh, but it collapsed for lack of support from the public.

Mr. Symington Grieve has again published "Additional Notes on the Great Auk or Gare-fowl (Alca impennis, Linn.)," reprinted from the 'Transactions of the Edinburgh Field Naturalists' and Microscopical Society.' These notes are written up to 31st July, 1898. We previously referred to his last census of twelve months ago ('Zoologist,' 1897, p. 533). He is now able to increase his enumeration of birds represented by the following remains:—

Skins 80  or 82.
Skeletons, more or less complete 23  or  24.
Detached bones 862  or 874.
Physiological preparations 2  or 3.
Eggs 71  or 72.

Sir John Murray has presented to the British Museum the first set of the Natural History Collections made by Mr. C.W. Andrews during his year's stay on Christmas Island, 200 miles south of Java.

W. Wesley & Son, 28, Essex Street, Strand, London, have just issued a new Catalogue, being No. 132 of their Natural History and Scientific Book Circular, which gives a descriptive and classified list of 1500 books and pamphlets on the Natural History of Great Britain and Ireland. We believe that it is the first catalogue of this character which has been published. The arrangement under the names of the English counties, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland, will be found of interest to collectors of local fauna and flora.

We regret to announce the death of Professor George J. Allman, M.D., E.R.S., formerly Regius Professor of Natural Science in the Edinburgh University, which took place at Ardmore, Parkstone, Dorset, on Nov. 24th. Professor Allman, who was born in Cork in 1812, was the eldest son of Mr. James Alimau, of Bandon, County Cork. He was educated at Belfast Academical Institution, and resolved on studying for the Irish Bar. Before, however, he had completed his terms, the love of natural science caused him to abandon law tor medicine, and he accordingly graduated in Arts and Medicine in the University of Dublin in 1844. In the same year he was appointed Regius Professor of Botany in the University, and gave up all idea of practising medicine as a profession. In 1854 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society, and in 1855 he resigned his professorship in the University of Dublin on being appointed Regius Professor of Natural History and Keeper of the Natural History Museum in the University of Edinburgh. This post he held until 1870, and shortly afterwards the honorary degree of LL.D. was conferred upon him by the Edinburgh University. Professor Allman devoted the greater part of his life to investigating the lower organisms of the animal kingdom. The large collection of Hydroida made during the exploring voyage of the ' Challenger ' was assigned to Professor Allman for determination and description. He has published the results of his original investigations in the Philosophical Transactions, the Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, of the Royal Irish Academy, and of the Linnean and Zoological Societies of London.

We take the above from an obituary notice in the 'Daily Chronicle.'

At a meeting of the British Ornithologists' Club, on Oct. 19th, Mr. G.H. Caton Haigh exhibited and made remarks upon a Warbler (Lusciniola schwarzi, Radde), which he had shot on the first of that month near North Cotes, Lincolnshire. The large bastard-primary easily distinguished the members of this genus (and those of Herbivocula) from the Phylloscopi. The summer home of L. schwarzi appeared to be in South-eastern Siberia, and reached about as far west as Tomsk, according to Godlewski, who had mentioned the powerful note of the bird; this was described by Mr. Haigh as disproportionately loud, and it led to the thorough beating-out of the hedge in which the bird was skulking. It would be remembered that easterly gales had prevailed for a considerable time. So far, L. schwarzi seemed not to have been previously recorded within the European area. A coloured figure of the specimen was to appear in the next number of the 'Ibis.'

W.J.W., writing in the 'Westminster Gazette' on the consternation among lovers of animal life at the Report of the Select Committee of the House of Commons upon the Science and Art Department's Museums advising the abolition of the Frank Buckland Collection, observes: — It is common knowledge that Frank Buckland intended the museum as an educational centre, and left a sum of money to ultimately endow a Lectureship in connection with it, which has not yet been brought into existence. To this it may be added that no post is likely to be created according to the terms of the will, for the trustee decamped with the money. Unless, therefore, the Government wakes up to its responsibility with regard to the direct advancement of many industries dealing with food supplies, and consequently grafted upon natural history, and begins its work with establishing a proper economic museum bearing upon fisheries, and using the Buckland bequest as a nucleus, this interesting series of specimens, with their old associations—unless some private benefactor comes forward—must be for ever lost to the country and to the admirers of one of the last naturalists of the old school.