Sunday, July 30, 2017

Shocking tales from ornithology

Manipulative people have always made use of the dynamics of ingroups and outgroups to create diversions from bigger issues. The situation is made worse when misguided philosophies are peddled by governments that place economics ahead of ecology. The pursuit of easily gamed targets such as GDP is easy since money is a man-made and controllable entity. Nationalism, pride, other forms of chauvinism, the creation of enemies and the magnification of war threats are all effective tools in the arsenal of Machiavelli for use in misdirecting the masses. One might imagine that the educated, especially scientists, would be smart enough not to fall into these traps but cases from recent history will dampen hopes for such optimism.

There is a very interesting book in German by Eugeniusz Nowak called "Wissenschaftler in turbulenten Zeiten" (or scientists in turbulent times) that deals with the lives of ornithologists, conservationists and other naturalists during the Second World War. Preceded by a series of recollections published in various journals, the book was published in 2010 but I became aware of it only recently while translating some biographies into the English Wikipedia. I have not yet actually seen the book (it has about five pages on Salim Ali as well) and have had to go by secondary quotations in other content. Nowak was a student of Erwin Stresemann (with whom the first chapter deals with) and he writes about several European (but mostly German, Polish and Russian) ornithologists and their lives during the turbulent 1930s and 40s. Although Europe is pretty far from India, there are ripples that reached afar. Incidentally, Nowak's ornithological research includes studies on the expansion in range of the collared dove (Streptopelia decaocto) which the Germans called the Tuerkentaube, literally the "Turkish dove", a name with a baggage of cultural prejudices.

Nowak's first paper of "recollections" notes that: [he] presents the facts not as accusations or indictments, but rather as a stimulus to the younger generation of scientists to consider the issues, in particular to think “What would I have done if I had lived there or at that time?” - a thought to keep as you read on.

A shocker from this period is a paper by Dr Günther Niethammer on the birds of Auschwitz (Birkenau). This paper (read it online here) was published when Niethammer was posted to the security at the main gate of the concentration camp. You might be forgiven if you thought he was just a victim of the war. Niethammer was a proud nationalist and volunteered to join the Nazi forces in 1937 leaving his position as a curator at the Museum Koenig at Bonn.
The contrast provided by Niethammer who looked at the birds on one side
while ignoring inhumanity on the other provided
novelist Arno Surminski with a title for his 2008 novel -
Die Vogelwelt von Auschwitz
- ie. the birdlife of Auschwitz.

G. Niethammer
Niethammer studied birds around Auschwitz and also shot ducks in numbers for himself and to supply the commandant of the camp Rudolf Höss (if the name does not mean anything please do go to the linked article / or search for the name online).  Upon the death of Niethammer, an obituary (open access PDF here) was published in the Ibis of 1975 - a tribute with little mention of the war years or the fact that he rose to the rank of Obersturmführer. The Bonn museum journal had a special tribute issue noting the works and influence of Niethammer. Among the many tributes is one by Hans Kumerloeve (starts here online). A subspecies of the common jay was named as Garrulus glandarius hansguentheri by Hungarian ornithologist Andreas Keve in 1967 after the first names of Kumerloeve and Niethammer. Fortunately for the poor jay, this name is a junior synonym of  G. g. anatoliae described by Seebohm in 1883.

Meanwhile inside Auschwitz, the Polish artist Wladyslaw Siwek was making sketches of everyday life  in the camp. After the war he became a zoological artist of repute. Unfortunately there is very little that is readily accessible to English readers on the internet.
Siwek, artist who documented life at Auschwitz
before working as a wildlife artist.
 
Hans Kumerloeve
Now for Niethammer's friend Dr Kumerloeve who also worked in the Museum Koenig at Bonn. His name was originally spelt Kummerlöwe and was, like Niethammer, a doctoral student of Johannes Meisenheimer. Kummerloeve and Niethammer made journeys on a small motorcyle to study the birds of Turkey. Kummerlöwe's political activities started earlier than Niethammer, joining the NSDAP (German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei = The National Socialist German Workers' Party)  in 1925 and starting the first student union of the party in 1933. Kummerlöwe soon became part of the Ahnenerbe, a think tank meant to give  "scientific" support to the party-ideas on race and history. In 1939 he wrote an anthropological study on "Polish prisoners of war". At the museum in Dresden which he headed, he thought up ideas to promote politics and he published them in 1939 and 1940. After the war, it is thought that he went to all the European libraries that held copies of this journal (Anyone interested in hunting it down should look for copies of Abhandlungen und Berichte aus den Staatlichen Museen für Tierkunde und Völkerkunde in Dresden 20:1-15.) and purged them of his article. According to Nowak, he even managed to get his hands (and scissors) on copies held in Moscow and Leningrad!  

The Dresden museum was also home to the German ornithologist Adolf Bernhard Meyer (1840–1911). In 1858, he translated the works of Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace into German and introduced evolutionary theory to a whole generation of German scientists. Among Meyer's amazing works is a series of avian osteological works which uses photography and depict birds in nearly-life-like positions - a less artistic precursor to Katrina van Grouw's 2012 book The Unfeathered Bird. Meyer's skeleton images can be found here. In 1904 Meyer was eased out of the Dresden museum because of rising anti-semitism. Meyer does not find a place in Nowak's book.

Nowak's book includes entries on the following scientists: (I keep this here partly for my reference as I intend to improve Wikipedia entries on several of them as and when time and resources permit. Would be amazing if others could pitch in!).
In the first of his "recollection papers" (his 1998 article) he writes about the reason for writing them  - the obituary for Prof. Ernst Schäfer  was a whitewash that carefully avoided any mention of his wartime activities. And this brings us to India. In a recent article in Indian Birds, Sylke Frahnert and others have written about the bird collections from Sikkim in the Berlin natural history museum. In their article there is a brief statement that "The  collection  in  Berlin  has  remained  almost  unknown due  to  the  political  circumstances  of  the  expedition". This might be a bit cryptic for many but the best read on the topic is Himmler's Crusade: The true story of the 1939 Nazi expedition into Tibet (2009) by Christopher Hale. Hale writes about Himmler: 
He revered the ancient cultures of India and the East, or at least his own weird vision of them.
These were not private enthusiasms, and they were certainly not harmless. Cranky pseudoscience nourished Himmler’s own murderous convictions about race and inspired ways of convincing others...
Himmler regarded himself not as the fantasist he was but as a patron of science. He believed that most conventional wisdom was bogus and that his power gave him a unique opportunity to promulgate new thinking. He founded the Ahnenerbe specifically to advance the study of the Aryan (or Nordic or Indo-German) race and its origins
From there Hale goes on to examine the motivations of Schäfer and his team. He looks at how much of the science was politically driven. Swastika signs dominate some of the photos from the expedition - as if it provided for a natural tie with Buddhism in Tibet. It seems that Himmler gave Schäfer the opportunity to rise within the political hierarchy. The team that went to Sikkim included Bruno Beger. Beger was a physical anthropologist but with less than innocent motivations although that would be much harder to ascribe to the team's other pursuits like botany and ornithology. One of the results from the expedition was a film made by the entomologist of the group, Ernst Krause - Geheimnis Tibet - or secret Tibet - a copy of this 1 hour and 40 minute film is on YouTube. At around 26 minutes, you can see Bruno Beger creating face casts - first as a negative in Plaster of Paris from which a positive copy was made using resin. Hale talks about how one of the Tibetans put into a cast with just straws to breathe from went into an epileptic seizure from the claustrophobia and fear induced. The real horror however is revealed when Hale quotes a May 1943 letter from an SS officer to Beger - ‘What exactly is happening with the Jewish heads? They are lying around and taking up valuable space . . . In my opinion, the most reasonable course of action is to send them to Strasbourg . . .’ Apparently Beger had to select some prisoners from Auschwitz who appeared to have Asiatic features. Hale shows that Beger knew the fate of his selection - they were gassed for research conducted by Beger and August Hirt.
SS-Sturmbannführer Schäfer at the head of the table in Lhasa

In all Hale, makes a clear case that the Schäfer mission had quite a bit of political activity underneath. We find that Sven Hedin (Schäfer was a big fan of him in his youth. Hedin was a Nazi sympathizer who funded and supported the mission) was in contact with fellow Nazi supporter Erica Schneider-Filchner and her father Wilhelm Filchner in India, both of whom were interned later at Satara. while Bruno Beger made contact with Subhash Chandra Bose more than once. [Two of the pictures from the Bundesarchiv show a certain Bhattacharya - who appears to be a chemist working on snake venom at the Calcutta snake park - one wonders if he is Abhinash Bhattacharya.]

My review of Nowak's book must be uniquely flawed as  I have never managed to access it beyond some online snippets and English reviews.  The war had impacts on the entire region and Nowak's coverage is limited and there were many other interesting characters including the Russian ornithologist Malchevsky  who survived German bullets thanks to a fat bird observation notebook in his pocket! In the 1950's Trofim Lysenko, the crank scientist who controlled science in the USSR sought Malchevsky's help in proving his own pet theories - one of which was the ideas that cuckoos were the result of feeding hairy caterpillars to young warblers!

Issues arising from race and perceptions are of course not restricted to this period or region, one of the less glorious stories of the Smithsonian Institution concerns the honorary curator Robert Wilson Shufeldt (1850 – 1934) who in the infamous Audubon affair made his personal troubles with his second wife, a grand-daughter of Audubon, into one of race. He also wrote such books as America's Greatest Problem: The Negro (1915) in which we learn of the ideas of other scientists of the period like Edward Drinker Cope! Like many other obituaries, Shufeldt's is a classic whitewash.  

Even as recently as 2015, the University of Salzburg withdrew an honorary doctorate that they had given to the Nobel prize winning Konrad Lorenz for his support of the political setup and racial beliefs. It should not be that hard for scientists to figure out whether they are on the wrong side of history even if they are funded by the state. Perhaps salaried scientists in India would do well to look at the legal contracts they sign with their employers, the state, more carefully.

PS: Mixing natural history with war sometimes led to tragedy for the participants as well. In the case of Dr Manfred Oberdörffer who used his cover as an expert on leprosy to visit the borders of Afghanistan with entomologist Fred Hermann Brandt (1908–1994), an exchange of gunfire with British forces killed him although Brandt lived on to tell the tale.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Museum poetry

Beryl Patricia Hall (1917-2010) may not be a familiar name to many who study birds these days but  there is a good chance that those interested in the taxonomy of birds would have come across the name ""B.P. Hall". The chances drop however for a little book of poems written with Derek Goodwin - it is called Bird Room Ballads - and was privately printed in 1969 with just a few copies around the world perhaps. The title is clearly inspired by Kipling's Barrack Room Ballads and the first entry is even titled as "the law of the jungle"! 

Pat Hall appears to have been another of those ornithologists who was influenced by R.E. Moreau thanks also to her wartime work in Africa. A couple of obituaries including one by Robert Prys-Jones make for useful background reading but sadly Bird Room Ballads is largely an inaccessible gem of ornithological humour. Here are a few gems of wisdom in verse:

The latest on Picathartes based on molecular techniques puts it as a basal member of the clade that includes the flycatchers and warblers and is a sister of the corvids. Picathartes can also make the claim to fame of getting David Attenborough his first job as an anchor.

Nome, Alaska 1968
86th A.O.U. Congress, - Field Trips.


Forty birders in a bus
Seek bristle-thighed Numenius;
And all are anxious to discern
A black-billed, pale, non-Arctic tern.
Among the peeps they hope to note
A "Western" with a rufous throat.

Some are tickers-off of lists,
While two are super-optimists
Who hope on tape to hear each bird
Above the chatter of the herd.

Among the forty-odd of course
Photographers are there in force
They stealthily approach each nest
Step by step in line abreast
So none does better than the rest.

Along the road a voice cries "Stop!
A Snowy Owl!" and out they hop.
Back again and on their way;
A ptarmigan makes more delay.
A Tattler next? "You must turn round
I thought I saw one on the ground!"
The driver tries, as in a jeep,
But in a trice is axle-deep.

But if the wretched man had hope
That eighty hands would help him cope,
His birding world he little knew.
One by one went out of view
While by the bus disconsolate
Three wives were left to contemplate
How many hours they'd have to wait,
And whether food would be kept late.

Sketch: A.M. Hughes

Monday, June 19, 2017

A libel story


A visit to the Biligirirangan Hills just as the monsoons were setting in led me to look up on the life of one of the local naturalists who wrote about this region, R.C. Morris. One of the little-known incidents in his life is a case of libel arising from a book review. I had not heard of such a case before but it seems that libel cases are a rising risk for anyone who publishes critical reviews. There is a nice guide to avoid trouble and there is a plea within academia to create a safe space for critical discourse.

This is a somewhat short note and if you are interested in learning more about the life of R.C. Morris - do look up the Wikipedia entry on him or this piece by Dr Subramanya. I recently added links to most of his papers in the Wikipedia entry and perhaps one that really had an impact on me was on the death of fourteen elephants from eating kodo millet - I suspect it is a case of aflatoxin poisoning! Another source to look for is the book Going Back by Morris' daughter and pioneer mountaineer Monica Jackson. I first came to know of the latter book in 2003 through the late Zafar Futehally who were family friends of the Morrises. He lent me this rather hard to find book when I had posted a note to an email group (a modified note was published in the Newsletter for Birdwatchers, 2003 43(5):66-67 - one point I did not mention and which people find rather hard to believe is that my friend Rajkumar actually got us to the top of Honnametti in a rather old Premier Padmini car!).

I came across the specific libel case against Morris in a couple of newspaper archives - this one in the Straits Times, 27 April 1937, can be readily found online:


LIBELLED HUNTER GETS £3,000 DAMAGES
Statements  Made In Book Review.

Major Leonard Mourant Handley, author of "Hunter's Moon," a book dealing with his experiences as a big game-hunter, was at the Middlesex Sheriff's Court awarded £3,000 damages for libel against Mr. Randolph Camroux Morris. Mr. Morris did not appear and was not represented. The libel appeared in a review of "Hunter's Moon" by Mr. Morris that appeared in the journal of the Bombay Natural History Society. Mr. Valentine Holmes said Major Handley wrote the book, his first, in 1933. and it met with amazing success.

Mr. Morris, in his review, declared that it did not give the personal experiences of Major Handley. Mr. Morris wrote :"There surely should be some limit to the inaccuracies which find their way into modern books, which purport to set forth observations of interest to natural  scientists  and  shikaris.


"The recent book. 'Hunters Moon.' by Leonard Handley, is so open to criticism in this respect, that one is led to the conclusion that the author has depended upon his imagination and trusted to the credulity of the public for the purpose of producing a 'bestseller' rather than a work of sporting or scientific value."

Then followed some 38 instances of alleged Inaccuracies.


Mr. Holmes said that at one time Mr. Morris was a close friend of Major Handley, but about 1927 some friction arose between Mrs. Morris and Mrs.  Handley. In evidence. Major Handley said that, following the libel, a man who had been a close friend of Ms refused to nominate him for membership of a club The Under-Sheriff. Mr. Stanley Ruston said there was no doubt that the motive of the libel lay in the fact that Major Handley had seized some of the thunder Mr. Morris was providing for his own book.

Naturally this forced me to read the specific book which is also readily available online



The last chapter deals with the hunter's exploits in the Biligirirangans which he translates as the "blue [sic] hills of Ranga"! It is also worth examining Morris' review of the book in the Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society which is merely marked under his initials. I wonder if anyone knows of the case history and whether it was appealed or followed up. I suspect Morris may have just quietly ignored it if the court notice was ever delivered in the far away estate of his up in Attikan or Honnameti.

The review is fun to read as well...

Meanwhile, here is a view of the Honnametti rock which lies just beside the estate where Morris lived.
Honnametti rock

Memorial to Randolph Camroux Morris
Grave of Mary Macdonald, wife of Leslie Coleman, who in a way
founded the University of Agricultural Sciences. Coleman was perhaps the first
to teach the German language in Bangalore to Indian students.

Sidlu kallu or lightning-split-rock, another local landmark.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

German influences in Indian ornithology

I have noted before that many non-English works in science, even from Europe, are often given a quick pass-over in English works and have perhaps mentioned on this blog cases ranging from the failure to cite junior synonyms [example, Ixos fisquetti Eydoux & Souleyet, 1842 from a French source has been missed as a synonym of Pycnonotus priocephalus (Jerdon, 1839) by nearly all taxonomists] to glossing over major contributions like those of the German anatomist and cladist Max Fuerbringer. Some of this may be due to the wars but there is a sense that even much later works often do not give enough credit where it is due. 

In Tim Birkhead's preface to his history of ornithology, Ten Thousand Birds, he notes the ratings of his friends for the most influential ornithologists: 
"David Lack was the clear leader (30 votes), followed by Ernst Mayr (23), Niko Tinbergen (21), Robert MacArthur (11), Peter Grant (11), Nick Davies (11), Erwin Stresemann (11), Charles Sibley (11), Konrad Lorenz (9), and Donald Farner (8)."
Title page of Volume 7 part 2 of Handbuch der Zoologie (1934)
This is obviously a questionable sample size but the presence of three Germans in the list (with Stresemann at the root of the academic genealogy of the other two - Mayr and Lorenz) should be a useful indicator. A much richer view of influence and the genealogy of ornithology in Germany can be found in the writings of Jürgen Haffer. Haffer, who died a few years ago, was a student of Ernst Mayr who in turn was a student of Stresemann. Stresemann's influence was far reaching, even into India through Salim Ali who spent some time with Stresemann at the Zoological Museum, Berlin. An invitation to visit Berlin for a Wikipedia related meeting allowed me to pursue my curiosity on Stresemann's work and the Salim Ali connection. Ali notes in his biography that it was through the Germans and their Heligoland observatory that he picked up his studies of live birds in the hand and ringing.* In 1914, at the age of 25, while still a doctoral student in medicine, Stresemann was offered the task of writing an entry on the birds in the Handbuch der Zoologie series since the bigger names in German ornithology were too busy to take up the job. This offer from the series editor Willy Kükenthal was to be crucial in his later career. The draft version which followed a structure suggested by Kukenthal arrived in 1920, delayed by the First World War, and when it was published in 1934, it consisted of 900 pages. The book led Stresemann to his future career in the Berlin museum picked in preference to many other bigger and dominant names. In producing the book, Stresemann had clearly conducted a great deal of research into the literature, both new and old, before him which also led him to later reflect on the historical development of ornithology - leading to another magnificent work which was also translated into English as Ornithology from Aristotle to the Present - a (signed) copy of which apparently went to Salim Ali and was passed on to the late S.A. Hussain (who mentioned it over a coffee one evening not too long ago). Now Birkhead's ornithological history does not do a good job of telling us what went into Stresemann's Handbuch der Zoologie. This book had 2200 printed copies but only 536 were sold by 1934 and 156 in 1944 and the remaining copies were burnt at the end of World War II (see Bock, 2001). I  browsed through a copy of the book in the library of Zoological Museum at Berlin and have extracted the table of contents which gives a good overview of the topics covered (I have removed the page numbers and hopefully there are no major transcription errors, use translate.google.com to see what they mean but be prepared for mis-translations):

Stresemann (left) in Finland during the Ornithological Congress of 1958. Photo from the Alexander Wetmore album courtesy of Smithsonian Instituion / Biodiversity Heritage Library.

Einleitung [Introduction]
Definition
Erforschungsgeschichte [Research history]

Haut und Hautgebilde [Epidermis]
Haut: Cutis - Epidermis - Schnabel [beak] - Stirnplatten - Nagel [nails]: Zehennägel- Fingernägel - Sporen - Federn [feathers] - Konturfedern [contour feathers] - Augenwimpern [eyelash], Tastfedern - Pelzdunen - Puderfedern - Pinselfedern - Fadenfedern - Afterschaft - Nestdunen - Stellung der Federn [position of feathers] - Anordnung der Federn [arrangement of feathers] - Schwingfedern [flight feathers] - Deckfedern [coverts] - Diastataxie [diastaxy] - Afterflügel - Oberarmdecken [upper wing coverts] - Steuerfedern [control feathers] - Mauser [moult] - Schnelligkeid des Federwachstums [rate of feather growth?] - Mauserperioden [moult period]- Umfang der Mauser - Doppelte und dreifache Mauser [double and triple moult] - Reihenfolge des Federwechsels [sequence and  - Abhängigkeit der Mauser von äusseren und inneren Einflüssen - Schuppen [scales]: Deck-, Lauf-schuppen - Fersenschuppen - Hautdruesen - Färbung von Haut und Hautgebilden [colours of skins and skin formation]: Melanine und Lipochrome - Bildungsort der Lipochrome - Periodischer Faerbungswechsel [periodic colour change] - Federzeichnung - Farbenindruck - Schillerfarben - Farbaberrationen [aberrant colours] - Komplizierte Mutationen

Skelett [Skeleton]
Schädel [skull] - Ersatzknochen - Deckknochen - Bewegungen im Schädel - Unterkiefer - Zweiter Schlundbogen - Driter Schlundbogen - Pneumatizität der Schädelknochen - Wirbelsäule - Rippen - Brustbein - Schultergürtel - Vordere Extremetität - Pneumatizität des Rumpf [pneumatization of the hull] - und Extremitätenskeletts - Ossifikation der Markknochen [Ossification of the medullary bone]

Muskelsystem [Muscular system]
Viszeralmuskulatur - Somatische Muskulatur - Augenmuskulatur [eye muscles] - Parietale Muskeln - Glatte Federnmuskeln [smooth feather muscle] - Hautmuskeln [skin muscles] - Rote und weisse Muskulatur - Muskelkerne

Nervensystem [Nervous system]
Rückenmark [spinal cord] - Spinalnerven - Gehirn - Gehirnnerven III-XII - Kleinhirn - Mittelhirn - Zwischenhirn - Vorderhirn - Autonomes Nervensystem - Paraganglien - Parasympathisches System

Sinnesorgane [Sense organs]
 Hautsinnesorgane - Geschmacksorgan - Geruchsorgan - Hörorgan - Labyrinth - Scheckenteil - Vestibularteil - Bogengangteil - Mittelohr - Paratympanisches Organ - Äußerer Gehörgang - Auge - Retina - körper - Akkomodation - Cornea - Sclera - Bulbus - Augenmuskeln - Lidapparat - Assoziation beiderAugen - Augendrüsen

Verdauungssystem [Digestive system]
Mund-Rachenhöhle - Zunge - Histologie der Mund-Rachenhöhle - Drüsen - Faerung der Mundhöhle  Oesophagus - Magen - Druesenmagen - Muskelmagen - Innervierung des Magens - Darm - Duodenalschleife - Ileum - Diverticulum caecum vitelli - Blinddärme - Enddarm - Struktur der Darmwand - Kloake - Bursa Fabricii - Innervierung des Darmes - Verdauung - Leber - Pankreas

Klementaschenderivate und Thyreoidea [Respiratory system]

Atmungsorgane
Atemweg - Pharyngo-nasale Luftsäcke - Kehlspalt - Stutzgerüst des Kehlkopfes - Trachea - Freie Bronchien - Syrinx - Syrinxmuskeln - Innvervierung der Syrinx - Sexualdimorphismus im Syrinxbau - Lunge - Pulmonale Luftsäcke - Histologie der Luftsäcke - Bronchialbaum - Physiologie der Atmung - Funktionen der Luftsäcke - Thoraxbewegungen - Kammerung der Leibeshöhle

Zirkulationsorgane [Blood circulation]
Herz  - Wärmeschutz -Schutz gegen Ueberhitzung  - Körpertemperatur - Arterien: Schicksal der Aortenbögen -Arterien der vorderen Extremität - Arterien der hinteren Extremität - Intersegmentale Arterien - Arterien des Darmkanales - Arterien der Nieren und Keimdrüsen - Venen: Embryonale Entwicklung  - Gebiet der Vena cardinalis posterior - Gebiet der Vena cava posterior - Gebiet der Vena hypogastrica - Nierenpfortaderkreislauf - Gebiet der Venae portae - Gebiet der Vena cardinalis anterior - Gebiet der Vena jugularis - Gebiet der Vena vertebralis communis und  Vena  subclavia  - Blutzellen:   Leukozyten  und  Erythrozyten  -Thrombozyten - Lymphgefäßsystem  — Milz

Urogenitalsystem [Urinogenital system]
Harnapparat — Harn  — Nebenniere — Geschlechtsapparat. Entwicklung: Urgeschlechtszellen - Entwicklung der Keimdrüsen  — Entwicklung des Müllerschen Ganges - Zustand beim Männchen: Hoden — Reste der Urniere beim Männchen - Nebenhoden - Samenleiter - Übertragung des Sperma - Phalloides Organ - Zustand beim Weibchen: Schwund des rechten Ovars und rechten Ovidukts - Geschlechtsumwandlung - Ovar  — Reste von Urniere und Wolffschem  Gang beim Weibchen — Ovidukt

Keimzellen [Germ cells]
Ei. Eierstockei — Dotterbildung - Große Wachstumsperiode des Eies - Bilateraler Bau der Oozyte und des Follikels - Follikelsprung - Hau des Reifeies - Sekundäre Eihüllen -   Kalkschalc - Färbung der Schale - Schalendicke - Eiform - Legeakt- Eiweiß - Verhältnis des Dottergewichts zum Eiweißgewicht - Zusammensetzung des Eiweißes - Eigröße - Spermium.

Embryonale Entwickelung [Embryo development]
Befruchtung - Furchung - Gastrulation -  Primitivstrelfen -Kopffortsatz - Mesoderm -Orientierung der Embryonalanlage - Drehung auf die linke Seite -Eihäute-Dottersack- Resorption des Dotters -   Gefäße des Dottersackes - Amnion -Serosa -Allantois - Gefäße der Allantois - Eiweißsack - Bau der Eiweißsackwandung - Resorption des Eiweißes - Verbindungen der Allantois gefäße - Stellung des Embryo im letzten Drittel der Bebrütung - Schlüpfakt -Abbau lies Schalenkalkes - Aufnahme des Dottersackes in die Bauchhöhle-Stellung des Eies während der Bebrütung-Physiologie der Hmbryonalentwickeluug - Ent-Wickelungsdauer -Brutdauer.

Postembryonale Entwickelung [Post-embryonic development]
Nestflüchter und Nesthocker - Dottervorrat -  Gewichtszunahme -  Nahrungsmenge - Erste Befiederung - Nestlingsdunen - Färbung des Dunenkleides- Tragdauer des Jugendkleides -   Eigenschaften der ersten Plugfedern -  Färbungs entwickelung - Nestlingszeit -  Proportionsverschiebungen -   Nahrungsaufnahme der Jungen - Leitmale

Geschtechtsdimorphismus [sexual dimorphism]
Geschlechtschromosomen - Zahlenverhältnis der Geschlechter - Gynandromorphe - Sexualhormone -Geschlechtsunterschiede in der Färbung - Größenverschiedenheit der Geschlechter - Geschlechtsunterschlede im Skelettbau - Geschlechtsunterschiede und Werbung - Unterschiede im Stimmapparat - Periodischer Wechsel des Geschlechts-dimorphismus- Geschlechtsunterschiede im Mauserverlauf - Geschlechtsdimorphismus und Brutpflege - Übertragung männlicher Eigenschaften auf das Weibchen - Rassenunterschiede im geschlechtlichen Färbungsabstand - Mutative Vergrößerung des Geschlechtsdimorphismus

Fortpflanzung [Reproduction]
Werbung. Erreichung der Geschlechtsreife -  Fortpflantungsperiode - Zusammenhalt der Geschlechter-  Verlobung- Balz -  Psychische Selektion- Begattung -Nest. Ort der Eiablage - Nestbautrieb-    Nestform-    Standort des Nestes- Baukunst als ererbte Anlage - Baustoffe - Verarbeitung der Baustoffe - Dauer des Nestbaues - Aushöhlen von Holz und Erdreich - Benutzung von Ameisen- und Termitenbauten [use of termites and termite nests] -  Fehlen des Nestbautriebes - Wiederbenutzung des alten Nestes  — Bautätigkeit nach Brutbeginn - Organveranderungen zur Nestbau-Zelt — Ei: Eiabläge und Klima -    Eierzahl [number of eggs] — Beziehungen zwischen Eigewicht und Zahl der Eier [Relations between egg weight and number of eggs] — Nachlegen -  Nachgelege —  Brut [brood] — Polyandrie — Legeabstand - Bebrütung - Schutzfärbung der Eier -   Anteil der Geschlechter am Brutgeschäft  — Bebruting durch beide Gatten - Ablösung beim Brüten — Verständigungsmittel der Gatten  - Triebhandlungen im Dienste der Brutsicherung — Bebrütung durch nur einen Partner -      Brutflecke - Kompensation mangelnder Brutflecke — Bebrütung über die normale Brutdauer hinaus  -   Schlüpfakt  — Jungenpflege  — Verhalten der Nesthocker - Verhalten der Nestflüchter -   Zusammenhalt der Familien  — Geselliges Brüten -  Polygynie — Ehelosigkeit — Geselliges Leben der Pinguine  — Erbrütung der Eier durch Bodenwarme - Brutparasitismus — bei Cuculiden — Färbunganpassung der Kuckuckseier — Größenanpassung der Kuckuckseier — bei Icteriden - bei Ploceiden — bei Indicatoriden  — bei Heteronetta  — Rasche Embryonalentwickelung der Brutschmarotzer — Schädigung der Wirtsvögel.

Lebensdauer [life spans]

Tag- und Nachtvögel [day and night birds]

Ernährung [nutrition]
Nahrung — Nahrungswahl — Nahrungsaufnahme — Erweiterung von Spalträumen — Bogenförmige Schnäbel  — Zusammenspiel von Schnabel und Zunge — Mundwerkzeuge der Nektarsauger — Saugakt — Ornithophile Blüten — Zungen-apparat der Spechte — Nahrung der Spechte — Mundwerkzeuge der körnerfressenden Passeres — Mundwerkzeuge der Papageien — Jagd auf fliegende Beutetiere — Nahrungsaufnahme bei den Raubvögeln— Scharren — Nahrungsaufnahme aus dem Wasser — Vorrat-Sammeln — Zerkleinerung der Nahrung durch Zerrupfen oder Zerschlagen — Prüfung der Nahrung mit dem Geschmackssinn — Tastsinn im Bereich der Mundwerkzeuge — Bildung des Werkzeuges nach dem Bedürfnis — Ausnutzung der Nahrung. Zellulosereiche Nahrung  — Darmbakterien — Fleischnahrung — Gallen-farbstoffe - Resorption und Anbau pflanzlicher Farbstoffe — Endozoische Samen-verbreltung durch Vögel

Stoffwechsel und Energiewechsel [Metabolism and energy metabolism]
Chemie des Eies — Zusammensetzung des Dotters — Zusammensetzung des Eierklars — Zusammensetzung von Schalenhaut und Kalkschale — Stoffwechsel des Embryo— Stoffwechsel des Erwachsenen. Erhaltung des ernährungsphysiologischen Gleichgewichts — Mineralstoffwechsel — Eiweißabbau und Harn — Grundumsatz und Leistungszuwachs — Periodisches Schwanken des Fettansatzes — Stoffwechsel im Hunger — Hungerresistenz und Körpergröße — Wasserhaushalt.

Bewegung [Movement]
Bewegungen  der  Wirbelsäule —  Brustwirbelsäule —  Halswirbelsäule — Schwanzwirbelsfiule — Bewegungen der hinteren Extremität — Schlafstellung - Ortsbewegung: Laufen und Hüpfen — Gang  — Ortsbewegung der Schwimmvögel auf festem Boden — Klettern — Bewegungsform und Bauplan — Längenverhältnis der Zehenglieder — Längenverhältnis von Lauf und Unterschenkel — Bewegungen der vorderen Extremitat — Flügelskelett — Schultergürtel — Schultergelenk — Ellenbogengelenk — Handgelenk — Gelenke zwischen Mittelhand und Fingern — Flügelmuskeln — Muskeln zur Bewegung des — Muskeln zur Bewegung des Vorderarms — Muskeln zur Bewegung der Mittelhand und der Finger — a) Ursprung am Oberarm — b) Ursprung am Vorderarm — c) Ursprung am Metacarpus — Flügelfläche — Propatagium und Metapatagium — Schwungfedern — Bau der Schwungfedern — Spannung der Schwungfedern — Wirkung des Luftdruckes an den Federstrahlen — Erteilung des Vortriebes — Flug: Ruderflug — a) große Vögel — b) kleine Vögel — Flügeltypen — Hubflügel — Schnellflügel — Schwebeflügel — Zahl der Flügelschläge — Zusatzbelastung — Hüpfender Flug — Schwebeflug der Kleinvögel — Gleitflug — Schwirrflug — Rütteln — Flugleistung — Flugarbeit — Ausnutzung der Windkräfte  — Statischer Segelflug — Dynamischer Segelflug  — Änderung der Höhe — Änderung der Richtung — Abflug — Landüng — Aufgaben des Schwanzes — Verlust des Flugvermögens — Schwimmen — Tauchen — Fußtaucher — a) Kormorane — b) Podiceps, Colymbus, Tauchenten — Flügeltaucher — Wechselbeziehungen zwischen Tauch- und Flugvermögen — Tauchleistungen

Tonerzeugung [Sound generation]
Syrinx und Trachea als Zungenpfeife — Akustik der Zungenpfeifen — Akustik der immwerkzeuge der Vögel — Wirkung der Stimm-Muskeln — Paarige und unpaarige Stimmapparate — Veränderung des von den schwingenden Membranen erzeugten Tones — Resonanzapparate — Biologische Bedeutung der Stimmlaute — Instrumentalmusik

Geographische Verbreitung [Geographical distribution]
Alter des Vogelstammes, der Arten und Rassen — Arten-Zahl — Ausbreitungsschranken
— Verbreitungsmittel — Räumliche Sonderung der Populationen als Vorbedingung der
Artenvermehrung — Artvermehrung als Folge ökologischer Umstellung — Diskontinuierliche Verbreitung als Ergebnis erdgeschichtlichen Geschehens — Regionale Verbreitung der Vögel

Wanderungen [Migration]
Ökologische Ursachen der Wanderungen — Winteraufenthalt — Dauer des Aufenthaltes im Überwinterungsgebiet — Ökologische Ansprüche an das Winterquartier — Traditionelles Festhalten am Winterquartier — Beziehungen zwischen Urheimat und Winterquartier — Überwandern südlicher Populationen durch nördliche — Unbeständige Lage der Winterquartiere — Winteraufenthalt der Albatrosse — Räumliche Ausdehnung des Überwinterungsgebietes — Wanderwege — Ökologisch begründete Umwege — Schleifenförmiger Zugweg — Historisch begründete Umwege — Verlassen der traditionellen Zugbahnen — Breite der Zuggebiete — Leistungen: Beispiele für lange Wanderwege — Beispiele für lange Flugstrecken — Häufigkeit und Dauer der Rasten — Vergleich der täglichen Flugleistungen während der Brutzeit und der Zugzeit — Energiequellen — Orientierung — Optische Orientierung — Flug in großen Höhen — Richtungssinn — Richtungsgefühl und Richtungstrieb — Andressiertes Richtungsgefühl — Artgedächtnis — Steigerung der Orientierungsfähigkeit durch Selektion — Verdriftung — Aufsuchen neuer Brutgebiete — Veranlassung zum Aufbruch — terscheidung zwischen Wettervögeln und Instinktvögeln — Verkettung von Zugtrieb und r;pflanzungszyklus — Zusammenhänge zwischen Zugtrieb und endokrinem System — Beeinflussung des Zuges durch meteorologische Faktoren — Windrichtung — Beziehungen zwischen Zugzeiten und Dauer des Fortpflanzungszyklus — Beziehungen zwischen Zugzeiten und Länge des Wanderweges — Veranlassung zur Einstellung der Wanderung — Trennung nach Alter und Geschlecht — a) im Herbst — b) im Frühjahr —Geselliges Wandern —Zug und Mauser — Stammesgeschichtliches Alter der Zugvögel

Parasiten [Parasites]
Vermes: Trematoden — Cestoden — Nematoden — Acanthocephalen — Pentastomiden — Arthropoden: Acari — Flöhe — Wanzen — Fliegen — Mallophagen

Stammesgeschichte [Evolutionary history]


Stresemann's work is also well illustrated and it makes use of graphs to show how conclusions were arrived at. For instance there is a graph that shows the numbers of male and female larks collected at Danish lighthouses which points to protandry in Spring migration. It clearly was a truly illuminating and broad overview of ornithology in the 1930s and one that was widely appreciated. It is unclear if Salim Ali went through the contents of this work. The only major biography of Stresemann is by Jürgen Haffer, Erich Rutschke and Klaus Wunderlich - all three of whom are no more. Their biography includes several interesting sections but the ones that stand out are by Haffer and include scientometric approaches to examining the life and work of Stresemann. Unfortunately most of the book is in German and there is only a short summary in English. Haffer provides a chronological view of Stresemann's research focus over time using a graphical timeline.

A chronology of Stresemann's research focus from Haffer et al., 2000.
Haffer's phylogeny of avian taxonmy

Photo: Z thomas (Creative Commons)

Haffer notes that one of Stresemann's major works was his review of literature and I think this reflective approach to a field is especially important. It is clear that this showed the direction for further research for ornithology in Germany. It is not surprising that there are technical terms from German still in use in ornithology like zugunruhe (or migratory restlessness). In fact it was Stresemann who coined the German word "einemsen" in 1935 for describing the behaviour of birds anointing themselves with live ants. Salim Ali who was clearly in touch with Stresemann at that time found a suitable English verb for it as "anting" in a note published in the Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society - a word that has stayed ever since in the ornithologists dictionary.

The correspondence archive** at the Museum of Natural History in Berlin has only two letters from Ali to Stresemann [Reference: S IV Nachl. Stresemann/Akte Salim, A.; MfN d. Hub, HBSB]. One written (typed) on 24 July 1964 is in response to a letter of condolence to Salim Ali on the death of Loke Wan Tho. The other (29 April 1966) is a bit of an apology for not studying the moults of birds:

33 Pali Hill, Bandra
Bombay-50
29 April 1966

Dear Stresemann,

Many thanks for the prompt reply to my query about age, moult, and leg colour in Philomachus. This clarifies the position nicely.

I feel guilty and unhappy not to make fuller use of the exceptional opportunities one gets for studying moults etc. when handling such large numbers of birds for ringing. But unless we can have a much larger team of helpers in our migration study camps than circumstances permit - including some devoted entirely to moult study - this is very difficult. We have to collect arthropod parasites and blood samples from the birds for virus studies, and the various operations connecting with ringing - measuring, weighing, etc - use up all the time and facilities available. How, and for how long, to detain the birds during and after all these operations without harming them, when several hundred birds have to be dealt with under more or less alfresco conditions is another problem. All the same it seems a great pity that such wonderful opportunities cannot be more fully utilized!

With warmest regards, Yours ever
Salim
As can be seen from the graph of Haffer, Stresemann really moved into the study of moult towards the 1960s and until the end of his life. He was greatly aided in his research on moult by his (second) wife Vesta, an ornithologist in her own right about whom rather little has been written. Salim Ali notes in his autobiography that Stresemann was his guru and that he routinely wrote enquiries to which detailed replies would be sent without fail but in a difficult cursive handwriting. Perhaps someone can find the archives of Ali's letters and see what is to be learnt there. Ali notes that Stresemann was warm and welcoming in his letters even before he met him, a reason for Ali to choose Berlin over the British Museum. He also wondered how Stresemann managed to keep up with his correspondence given the number of people who wrote to him.

I suspect that a reflection on the state of knowledge of Indian birds with respect to their patterns of moult will not be particularly uplifting but reflect we must. The maintenance of a system of privileges (most often passively by not fighting against privilege) for a few ringers will ensure the poverty of local expertise that still continue.

The entrance to Waldfriedhof Dahlem (4 April 2017)
That afternoon, I went round to Waldfriedhof Dahlem (the Dahlem forest cemetery) to look for Stresemann's grave - which curiously is shared with that of his guru Ernst Hartert. It must be the only tombstone shared by two unrelated ornithologists. Actually Stresemann had wished to be beside his mentor after his death and was cremated with the ashes interred into the grave of Hartert. The grave is maintained by the Berlin district but despite weaving through the blocks, I failed to spot it!


* Ali's early ringing in India included field assistance from the Swiss ornithologist Alfred Schifferli (1912–2007, for a biography in German see - apparently Schifferli's namesake father essentially founded Swiss ornithology and a son Luc also continued in the same field) - there is a mention in Zafar Futehally's auto-biography of a field assistants who had grouped the the three bird-ringers as the three "Alis" that included "Schiffer-Ali" !
** Salim Ali evidently gifted about 200 bird specimens to the collection of the Berlin museum, the species list suggests that it was mostly from peninsular India.


Acknowledgements

I visited the archives of the Museum für Naturkunde on the 4th of April and the library on the 5th of April 2017. Thanks are due to Dr Sabine Hackethal and Sandra Miehlbradt, archivists at the Museum of Natural History Berlin for tracing the correspondence between Ali and Stresemann and for allowing their contents to be shared here. Thanks are also due to Martina Rißberger, librarian at Museum für Naturkunde Berlin for access to the Handbuch der Zoologie 7-2 and the biography of Erwin Stresemann. Thanks also to Kalpana Das for assistance.

References
Postscript
One of the reasons for posting this is to point out that Indian scientists and amateurs alike have a rather narrow view of the field of ornithology. In fact at a meeting to set up an ornithologists association many big-wigs were asked if poultry came under ornithology and then those present decided that their field should only comprise of the study of wild birds. Even today bibliographic compilations on India will routinely skip references to parasitology, ethno-ornithology, paleontology, molecular biology, behaviour, biomechanics and a host of other areas while tending to focus mainly on bird sight records and regional avifaunal lists - the last was one of the things that Stresemann explicitly banned from the Journal fur Ornithologie during his editorship

Monday, March 13, 2017

The mismeasure of birds

This is a remarkable painting by Henry Stacy Marks (1829-1888). He titled it "Science is Measurement" based on suggestions from his artist and scientist friends. Like a good painting, it is open to interpretation.


According to Stacy Marks, he was inspired to consider the scene when he went to measure some skeletons to draw some accurate illustrations. He thought what he was doing would be interesting to depict and he made this scene for his diploma from the Royal Academy in 1879. The title actually came later - and is probably influenced by the discussions of the day. In 1871, Lord Kelvin in his address to the British Association for the Advancement of Science noted:
Accurate and minute measurement seems to the non-scientific imagination a less lofty and dignified work than looking for something new. But nearly all the grandest discoveries of science have been the rewards of accurate measurement and patient long-continued labour in the minute sifting of numerical results.
 By 1883, Lord Kelvin had repeated the idea enough to make it sound more pompous:
I often say that when you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it; but when you cannot measure it, when you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meagre and unsatisfactory kind; it may be the beginning of knowledge, but you have scarcely, in your thoughts, advanced to the stage of science, whatever the matter may be.
It is unclear where Stacy Marks and his friends came across the version that seems to differentiate science from art and it appears that Marks and the other artists saw it as being somewhat absurd. His commentary in the elevation of the dead bird (a greater adjutant from Calcutta, incidentally), the "scientist" looking up at the dead bird (while pictures of the living animal lie on the floor), the contrasts of the dark and well dressed man with the light and unfleshed bird all make for an interesting setup.

Now there is something to be said about the measurement of birds - it might looks easy and objective but there are enough pitfalls. Measurement of anything looks easy but getting multiple people to measure in the same way is fraught. There are errors in how things are measured but there are also absolutely horrific things one can do after making measurements. Here is an example of a set of individual birds and their measurements from W.E. Brooks published in Stray Feathers 1875 - the author, a railways engineer, places the measurements of each individual bird in a single row.


What this table does tell us is that the observer recognizes that birds have their parts having proportionate parts. A slightly larger winged bird probably has a slightly longer beak. The proportion may however not be linear during the growth phase of a bird as some parts tend to grow faster than others. Two hundred and twenty five years later, an ordinary reader like me can take this data and put it through a simple Principal Components Analysis and see that the data has internal relationships which allow me to reduce it to a single dimension consisting of a linear combination of the variables that explains 99.8% of the variation among the specimens. The principal component consist of the following variable loadings.

PC1 PC2 PC3 PC4 PC5 PC6
Length -4.93 0.11 -0.01 -0.00 -0.00 -0.00
Wing -0.54 -0.11 0.11 -0.00 0.00 0.00
Tail -0.94 -0.18 -0.08 0.00 -0.00 0.00
Bill 1.89 0.04 -0.02 -0.02 0.00 -0.00
Tarsus 1.34 0.03 0.00 0.01 0.00 -0.00
Mid toe and claw 1.47 0.06 -0.00 0.01 0.01 0.00
Hind toe and claw 1.70 0.05 -0.01 -0.00 -0.01 0.00

This further opens up the possibility of comparing two populations for comparison in meaningful ways. You can even predict missing measurements based on multivariate regression.

The remarkable thing is that this simple approach to documenting bird measurements has been lost subsequently in India. It is unclear how the idea of reducing all data to ranges (maxima and minima) was come upon but a likely reason may have been to reduce space usage. The use of ranges seems to have been introduced by Stuart Baker but surprisingly, with no addition of even simple ideas as means and medians, was continued by Dillon Ripley and Salim Ali in their Handbook - and there was no improvement made to this by later cataloguers like Humayun Abdulali and Saraswathy Unnithan which vastly reduces the value of the work that they published. Reduction of data could have been accomplished through many means, graphical and numerical. This failure to improve upon methodology is especially difficult to understand given that Salim Ali counted J.B.S. Haldane and P.C. Mahalanobis as his friends (Mahalanobis of course pioneered morphometrics in physical anthropology and introduced what is now known as the Mahalanobis distance). Interestingly, I asked a few ringers of the BNHS about the protocols they used for morphometrics and was told that they only thought it worthy to measure waders and that all other birds just showed slight variations that were unworthy of recording!

Typical entry from the Handbook (1978, volume 1. p 10 for Daption capensis)

Meanwhile, ringers in other parts of the world have produced such excellent works as this one from Deutsche Ornithologen-Gesellschaft, this one from South Africa or this one. Even this rather old work from 1931 is worth examining.

I wonder if anyone has ever thought of a global morphometric database for any organism group.