Lost in the museum: an orphaned collection of shallow-water South African echinoderms

JM Olbers1, FEW Rowe2, Y Samyn.3, CL Griffiths.1

1. Zoology Department, University of Cape Town, Private Bag X3, Rondebosch, 7701, South Africa.

2. Senior Research Fellow, Australian Museum Sydney, Australia

3. Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, Brussels, Belgium.

Information on the location of type specimens is often not readily available via the internet. This makes finding types time consuming and cumbersome as it often involves contacting several collection managers. The echinoderm collections in South Africa is no different in this respect. Within South Africa the largest collection of echinoderm samples is housed in the iZiko South African Museum in Cape Town and two known ‘satellite’ collections are located in the Durban Natural Science Museum (DNSM) and the Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife collection in Durban. The contents of all these collections are not available online and information about the type specimens within these collections is therefore often hard to find. During a study on the ophiuroids of South Africa, a small orphaned collection of echinoderms was found at the DNSM despite the fact that its presence was unknown to the curator or director of the museum! The collection included valuable specimens from the region notably, the holotypes of Asteroschema capensis (Ophiuroidea) and Anthenoides marleyi (Asteroidea), described by Mortensen in 1925. The second asteroid species, Hacelia superba var. capensis Mortensen 1925, was unfortunately not found and its whereabouts remain unknown. The DNSM collection includes 82 specimens (preserved wet and dry) of Asteroidea, Ophiuroidea and Echinoidea. This paper summarizes the known information of this collection and highlights the ophiuroids of other collections within South Africa. The specimens found in the largest collection of South African shallow-water east coast ophiuroids (housed at the Royal Museum for Central Africa in Belgium) are also presented.

Marine research at Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife includes a long term monitoring programme of the subtidal reefs of KwaZulu-Natal (KZN). This project falls within a larger programme that monitors the marine and coastal resources of KZN to facilitate the decision making process in order to manage these resources effectively. The reefs of KZN are subject to a number of threats, i.e. divers, fishermen and climate change. This monitoring programme aims to detect subtle changes echoed by the change in benthic and fish communities on a variety of reefs. Six reefs (Kosi Bay, Leadsman Shoal, Sodwana Bay, Umhlali, Aliwal Shoal and Umtwalume) are monitored annually. Benthic cover is estimated at all sampling sites using a random quadrat method in which photographs are obtained and analyzed. A visual fish census is carried out on the reefs within the iSimangaliso Wetland Park with selected fish species being used as indicators of reef health. To compliment this data, underwater temperature recorders situated at four sites along the KZN coast record sea surface temperature (SST). The abundance of algae and sponges increase while the soft and hard coral cover decrease from north to south caused by a variety of factors, including SST, turbidity and light availability. Given the high number of divers on two-mile reef (50 000+ dives per year) at Sodwana Bay, this reef is monitored for bleaching and other signs of degradation. Benthic cover, SST data and some preliminary results of bleaching will be presented.

Presentation Topic

Lost in the museum: an orphaned collection of shallow-water South African echinoderms



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