Sunday, June 19, 2022

Bibliotheca Herpetologica 16(6)

Jacobs, H. J. and G. M. Shea 2022. Eight weeks in Lobo Bay.The Natuurkundige Commissie on New Guinea in 1828. I. Scincus and Centroplites (Scincidae). Bibliotheca Herpetologica 16(6):48–81. Published June 19, 2022.

The various expeditions of the Natuurkundige Commissie to the Dutch East Indies were extremely successful on the scientific side. This applies both to the first group under Heinrich Kuhl, which explored Java from 1820–1825, especially its western part, and to the second, led until his death in 1827 by Heinrich Boie, then Heinrich Mackot until his death in 1832, and subsequently by Salomon Müller. The number of specimens collected by them—birds, fish, mammals, amphibians, reptiles, but also plants and minerals—is stupendous and is surpassed only by the quantity of handwritten notes and the precise drawings of the painter Pieter van Oort, which have not yet been systematically and scientifically evaluated. The entire undertaking was ill-fated and that most of the extremely young scientists and painters—with the exception of Salomon Müller—died, mostly of tropical diseases.

This second group was attached to a military operation whose mission it was to establish a base on the west coast of New Guinea. This operation was also fated to fail: so many died that the fort was abandoned after a few years. The scientists themselves stayed in New Guinea for just eight weeks: after a dramatic prelude in Dourga Strait and a short stay at the Oetanata River, they spent most of the time (5 July–29 August 1828) near the fort at Lobo Bay, which has been renamed Triton Bay.

In its first part, this article discusses the skinks collected, mostly assigned to the genus Scincus by Müller in notes that have been available online since 2020, but are hardly accessible due to the difficult handwriting.

After Scincus typhlocephalus, later renamed S. muelleri (=Sphenomorphus muelleri (Schlegel 1837)), S. oxycephalus (=Lamprolepis smaragdina (Lesson 1829)), S. erythrolaimus (=Sphenomorphus meyeri (Doria 1874)) and S. biorchus (=Emoia caeruleocauda (de Vis 1892)), all of which were rapidly assimilated into the contemporary scientific literature, three species not subsequently mentioned (Scincus chalconotus (= Emoia kordoana (Meyer 1874)), S. rabdognathus (=Eugongylus rufescens (Shaw 1802)), and S. pleurorabdus (= Emoia jakati (Kopstein 1926)) are presented each with their depictions by Pieter van Oort, then two other taxa (S. maculosus (= Sphenomorphus simus (Sauvage, 1879) and S. gracilis (in part = Ornithuroscincus noctua (Lesson, 1829)) for which no pictures are available. The final species, Centroplites nigricans (= Tribolonotus novaeguineae (Schlegel 1834)) was not initially recognised as a skink. For all species—with the exception of S. biorchus allocated to Ambon—Müller’s handwritten notes are transcribed and translated into English.

In addition to the herpetological and taxonomic aspects, great importance is directed to the scientific-historical framework in which the species are embedded. After almost 200 years, many aspects are alien to us at first glance and have to be painstakingly deduced from the context.

Sunday, May 22, 2022

Wahlgreniana Volume 1

 Introducing Wahlgreniana

    A new book series published by the International Society for the History and Bibliography of Herpetology (ISHBH) named in honor of Richard Wahlgren (1946–2019), a founding member and first Chairman of the society.

The inaugural volume is now available. Written by Roger Bour and Josef Schmidtler, this volume examines the crocodilian illustrations of Nikolaus Michael Oppel, drawn between 1807 and 1817; primarily eleven previously unpublished watercolors. These illustrations played an important role in early crocodilian taxonomy. The authors give a history of each illustration, referencing museum specimens they are based upon and comparing them to other contemporary and modern crocodilian illustrations.
    In 1817 Oppel, along with Tiedemann and Liboschitz, published, Naturgeschichte der Amphibien. Erstes Heft. Gattung Krokodil. Originally planned as the first volume of a much larger work, this volume, along with an Atlas of plates, published separately by the authors, remains the only volume published. Limited to 150 printed copies, this book has fallen into obscurity and is largely overlooked, despite its importance. Although the text and the atlas are both available online, they are missing from the main online databases and libraries of older natural history books. Neither has ever been reprinted.
    This volume reprints both the text and the atlas of Tiedemann, Liboschitz, and Oppel (1817), following the authors’ thesis on Oppel’s illustrations, which make up the bulk of the Atlas.

Volume 2 of Wahlgreniana is due out later this year: Bibliography of the Anurans of the United States and Canada. Version 3. Part 1: 1698–2012. Part 2:  2013-2021. by C. Kenneth Dodd is a bibliography of the natural history of  frogs and toads compiled during an extensive literature search for the author’s comprehensive two volume work, Frogs of the United States and Canada, 2nd edition, due out later this year.

Bour, Roger and Josef F. Schmidtler. 2022. Nikolaus Michael Oppel’s Drawings, Watercolors, and Engravings 3. Crocodiles (1807–1817): A comparative study of some historical and recent crocodile illustrations. ISHBH, Salt Lake City, x, 184 p. Hardcover. Includes a complete facsimile of  Tiedemann, F., M. Oppel & J. Liboschitz 1817. Naturgeschichte der Amphibien. Erstes Heft. Gattung Krokodil. Joseph Engelmann, Heidelberg. v–vi, 1–88, vii–viii. Auf Kosten der Verfasser, München, 15 plates.

Specifications: Hardcover (ISBN: 9780578293998), x + 184 pages, full color. Price: $65.00 retail; $39.00 for ISHBH members (plus postage). Postage costs: USA: $6.00 ($1.00 for each addition copy); International: $7.00 ($2.00 for each additional copy). Ordering: Copies may be ordered at, or from most online and physical bookstores world-wide.

Click Here to Order 

Monday, March 28, 2022

Bibliotheca Herpetologica 16(5)


Mendyk, R. W. 2022.  A Sure and Certain Cure for the Bite of a Rattlesnake: 18th Century Folk Medicine and an Early Case of Herpetological Satire. Bibliotheca Herpetologica 16(5):43–47. Published March 28, 2022.

It can be difficult to find humor or amusement in as grim and macabre a subject as venomous snakebite, especially when considering the innumerable loss of human lives to snakebite throughout history to the present day. But, if there is any particular aspect of venomous snakebite that is more likely to be considered amusing than others, it would probably be the long and storied history of snakebite treatments, antidotes and sure cures that have been proposed and attempted over the last several centuries. In stark contrast to modern therapies, many of the folklore remedies proposed for venomous snakebites in the United States during the 18th and 19th Centuries may seem comical today in relation to what is now known about snake venoms, snakebite, and emergency medicine. Long gone are the days of burying bitten extremities in mud or applying the anuses of live chickens to bite wounds, dubious poultices and topical treatments of salt and gunpowder, pulverized charcoal and hog’s lard, clay and urine and turpentine, and tinctures and decoctions of ammonia spirits, melted hog’s lard and strychnine. Still, reflecting back on archaic snakebite treatments of the past offers a valuable glimpse into an era deeply impacted by a paucity of reliable scientific and medical research, testing, and controls. Here, I recount one particularly outlandish folklore treatment from the late 18th Century that typified venomous snakebite cures of the era in what is today the United States, and call attention to a follow-up satirical account that parodied this treatment and the absurdity of folklore snakebite treatments more than a century later.

Sunday, March 27, 2022

Bibliotheca Herpetologica 16(4)

Dodd, C. K. Jr. 2022.  Women in Herpetology—A Short Biography of Isabel Hoopes. Bibliotheca Herpetologica 16(4):37–42. Published March 27, 2022.

Prior to World War II, there were few women publishing on herpetology in the United States, and most of them were associated with major research institutions. Women were intensely discriminated against when attempting to enter graduate programs and, if graduated and professionally hired, were generally relegated to lesser positions than their male counterparts. Even in academia, women were expected to take up laboratory experimental research or work in museums, usually as assistants, rather than venture into the field or assume the title of curator. However, there are a number of lesser-known women without advanced degrees, or even degrees in biology, who made significant early contributions to advance our appreciation and knowledge of amphibians and reptiles at a time when few other naturalists did. Here, I present a short biography of Isabel Hoopes of Massachusetts.

Thursday, March 17, 2022

Bibliotheca Herpetologica 16(3)

Maynard, R. J. 2022.  Book Review. On the Backs of Tortoises: Darwin, the Galápagos, and the Fate of an Evolutionary Eden. Bibliotheca Herpetologica 16(3):33–36. Published March 17, 2022.

“Struggles over conservation are not between those who destroy and those who conserve nature…, but among populations who understand the value of nature very differently.” (p. 211)

Elizabeth Hennessy’s book, On the Backs of Tortoises: Darwin, the Galápagos, and the Fate of an Evolutionary Eden, is an engaging and well-researched book that recounts the complex human history on the Galápagos archipelago through the backdrop of giant tortoise exploitation over the past five centuries.

Wednesday, March 9, 2022

The Exploits of Arvid Blumenthal, Latvia’s “Crocodile Harry” in Australia

            Arvid Blumenthal (Latvian - Arvīda Blūmentala) was certainly one of the most colorful persons in The Land Down Under, a country renowned for its colorful personalities (see John Cann, 2014, Historical Snakeys, ECO Herpetological Publishing, Rodeo, New Mexico), in the decades after World War II. Born 19 March 1925 in Dundaga, Latvia, he fought with the Nazi-occupied Latvian army on the Eastern Front during WWII, was seriously wounded, and was later captured by the Americans.

             Blumenthal emigrated to Australia in 1951, moving to the Northern Territory where he took up crocodile hunting essentially living off the land in the company of Aboriginal peoples. Newspaper accounts, mostly based on “Harry’s” own assessments of his hunting prowess, record that he killed between 10,000 and 40,000 crocodiles, although it is hard to tell fact from fiction. Blumenthal was said to be the model on which the “Crocodile Dundee” (starring Paul Hogan) movie series was based in the 1980s, although that claim is disputed by some. In 1975, Blumenthal moved to Coober Pedy in central Australia to mine opals. As is common there, he made his home underground where he decorated his abode with what can politely be called “eccentric” mementos of his amorous conquests. His cave and its souvenirs can be visited today as Crocodile Harry’s Underground Nest west of Coober Pedy. He is still admired in Latvia, and there is a statue of a crocodile in his honor in Dundaga. Blumenthal died in Coober Pedy on 13 October 2006 and is buried in the town’s “Boot Hill” cemetery.

Crocodile Harry published two books on his hunting exploits and life in the wild in Australia: Latvietis Krokodiļu Mednieks Austrālijā [Latvian Crocodile Hunter in Australia, 1957, 151 p.] and Ilgas Pēc Saules [Longing for the Sun, 1958, 159 p.] (Figs. 1-3). Both were published in Latvian by Apgāds Sauleskrasts, Brisbane, Australia. Both contain poor quality black and white images taken in the field of Blumenthal with crocodiles or going about daily life in the bush (Figs. 4-6). Latvietis Krokodiļu Mednieks Austrālijā was republished as Nacionālais Dēkainis - Krokodilu Mednieks [National Adventurer – Crocodile Hunter], updated with additional information on Australia by Rimants Ziedonis who had visited Blumenthal there (2000, Jumava, Riga, Latvia, 199 p.). Today, these books are little known outside of Latvia, and there are no English translations so that most of the world remains ignorant of this larger-than-life personality. For further information on and photos of Arvid Blumenthal, see:

Jākobsons, E. 2020. Krokodilu mednieks Arvīds Blūmentāls. 2020. Laikmeta zīmes, 3 April         2020. . Accessed 9 March 2022.

Mustillo, M. 2015. Latvia’sCrocodile Harry: Inspiration for Hollywood. The Baltic Times, 2       December 2015. Accessed 9 March 2022.

Smith, T. 2018. Crocodile Harry:The Man Who Inspired Crocodile Dundee. The Culture Trip. Accessed 9 March 2022.

Submitted by: C. Kenneth Dodd, Jr.

Saturday, March 5, 2022

Bibliotheca Herpetologica 16(2)

Mendyk, R. W. 2022.  Peculiar Case of Ophiomania: The Herpetological Pursuits, Contributions and Advocacy of Arthur Stradling (1851–1902). Bibliotheca Herpetologica 16(2):14–32. Published March 5, 2022.

Amateur herpetologsts have undeniably played a crucial role in shaping and advancing the study of reptiles and amphibians over the last several centuries. But with few exceptions, it was not until the 20th Century that it became possible for someone to gain professional employment strictly as a herpetologist, and prior to this, most early contributors to the field held positions and backgrounds in other scholarly disciplines, particularly medicine. Following in such a tradition, Arthur Stradling (1851–1902), an English physician who lacked formal schooling in zoology but excelled as a naturalist, made many important contributions to the study of reptiles and amphibians during the last three decades of the 19th Century. Yet, despite his many discoveries and prolific output of both scholarly and popular publications on reptiles and amphibians, he has been largely overlooked and infrequently referenced in modern works of herpetology and herpetological history. The following account expands on the information presented in a recent biographical vignette of Stradling by Jon Coote (2019), and chronicles his remarkable life and herpetological pursuits, contributions and advocacy for reptiles and amphibians, concluding with an annotated bibliography of his numerous herpetological publications.

Friday, February 4, 2022

Bibliotheca Herpetologica 16(1)

Bettelheim, M. P. 2022.  Flânerie or Flimflammery? — The Urban Myth of the Flâneur and Turtle-Walking. Bibliotheca Herpetologica 16(1):1–13. Published February 4, 2022.

Toward the end of the twentieth century, German philosopher, cultural critic, literary scholar, and essayist Walter Benjamin (1892–1940) rose to prominence in first Europe, and then the Americas, for his writings about aesthetic theory, literary criticism, and historical materialism. Benjamin’s opus on urban Parisian culture not only paid special attention to the Passages couverts de Paris, Paris’ renowned glass roof-covered, gaslit passages that composed the city’s extensive shopping arcades (Solibakke 2009), but also those that dwelled there. In his writing, Benjamin gave new flesh to "flânerie", the art of walking. But perhaps more importantly, in what could easily have been dismissed as a footnote, he also refashioned a character known as the "flâneur". The flâneur was an idler who became personified as a young man walking about the arcades of Paris with a turtle or tortoise on a leash to set his pace. Inexplicably, Benjamin’s turtle-walking flâneur became an indelible motif in art and literature, making a splash whose ripples are still felt today.

Friday, October 29, 2021

Bibliotheca Herpetologica 15(12)

Ananjeva, N. B. and I. V. Doronin 2021. Herpetological century: 100th Anniversary of the Division of Herpetology, the Zoological Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, St. Petersburg. Bibliotheca Herpetologica 15(12):118–127. Published October 29, 2021.

In 2019 the herpetological community of Russia celebrated 100 years since establishment of the Department of Herpetology of the Zoological Museum (known as the Zoological Institute since 1931). This paper contains information about the scientists who led the department during this period, the herpetological collections housed by the Institute, the scientific fields of study and main projects of the staff, and the geographic areas in which they worked.

Friday, October 15, 2021

Biblitheca Herpetologica 15(11)

Dodd, C. K. 2021.  Book Review. The Last Turtlemen of the Caribbean. Waterscapes of Labor, Conservation, and Boundary Making. Bibliotheca Herpetologica 15(11):113-117. Published October 15, 2021.

Perhaps from the time of first human settlement along the coasts and islands of the Caribbean, the Green Turtle (Chelonia mydas) has been a source of sustenance. Its eggs were obtained easily along the sandy shorelines, and its meat has been much sought after by coastal peoples worldwide. As an added advantage, the shell and bones could be used as utensils and carved as tools. Although not as tasty as Greens, Hawksbill Turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata), too, oviposited protein-rich eggs on the remote islands, and their beautiful shell has been desired by craftsmen through the ages in all parts of the world. When European imperial fleets, pirates, traders, and slavers entered the Caribbean, they found an “inexhaustible” supply of food in Green Turtles for their long voyages and to feed crews, workers, and slaves on land. Hawksbill scutes offered a further lucrative trade item. But the turtle populations were not inexhaustible, and nesting areas of former abundance, particularly in Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, and the Dry Tortugas, were decimated.

Biblitheca Herpetologica 15(10)

Savage, J. M. and B. I. Crother 2021. The snakes of Dante’s Inferno and Lucanus’ de Bello Civili (Pharsalia). Bibliotheca Herpetologica 15(10):106–112. Published October 15, 2021.

“In the middle of the journey of our life I found myself within a dark woods where the straight way was lost.”

Thus begins the famous poem, La Divina Commedia, by Dante Alighieri (1265–1321 AD). That poem is generally considered to be the greatest literary work of the Middle Ages and ranks among the greatest in Western literature (Durant 1959: 1980). It consists of three parts in thirty-four Cantos (Longfellow 1867abc). It describes Dante’s passage through Inferno (Hell), Purgatorio (guided by the shade of the Roman poet Virgil), and through Paradiso (Heaven) by Beatrice, Dante’s ideal woman.