Zoology Jottings: The Naming of the Hong Kong Newt: The Key Gamers


I photographed this male Hong Kong Newt in 1966 within the outdated Northcote
Science Constructing of the College of Hong Kong

Within the literature the Hong Kong Newt is described thus: Paramesotriton hongkongensis (Myers & Leviton 1962). Behind that straightforward label is the story of these not solely who described the species but in addition of those that collected and despatched the animals from Hong Kong to Stanford College in California. Almost all of the folks concerned have appeared in my earlier articles however till final week I had not realised that I had already associated a number of the occasions that led to the Hong Kong Newt being described as a separate species.

Pre 1962: the species it was then considered

Earlier than 1962 the one species of newt or salamander present in Hong Kong was lumped into Cynops chinensis initially described by John Edward Grey FRS (1800-1875) of the British Museum (Pure Historical past) in London. The outline was printed in Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London in 1859 and his specimens have been obtained by a Mr Fortune who introduced it in a bottle together with ‘some Fishes and a Leech, collected from a river on the north-east coast of China, inland from Ningpo’. The fishes, by the way, turned out to be home goldfish (the outline of the tail and the massive upturned eyes suits the Celestial selection). Grey referred to as them ‘a really peculiar monstrosity’—phrases I can’t higher. Had been they actually present in the identical stream because the newt? Or have been all of them from a stream in a goldfish farm?

That species of newt was redescribed by a number of taxonomists through the years however all of the names given have been finally considered synonyms of that chosen by Grey for the newt from ‘inland from Ningpo’. I shall return to Mr. Fortune in one other article. I shall write it after a cup of tea and therein lies a clue.

Geoffrey Herklots in Thirties Hong Kong was eager to establish the native fauna. He despatched amphibians to Alice Boring in Beijing, or what was then Peiping to most People and Peking to most Brits, over 1200 miles to the north, the place she was amassing and figuring out amphibians of northern China.  She recognized the newts that  Herklots despatched as Triturus sinensis (a reputation that was a synonym of Grey’s C. chinensis and due to this fact invalid). In her paper printed in The Hong Kong Naturalist in 1934, Herklots was pressured so as to add a observe since Boring steered it may need been launched. Herklots had despatched her 27 preserved specimens from ditches in Quarry Bay and he identified that the newt was widespread and widespread all through Hong Kong and adjoining areas of Guandong (Kwangtung, Canton) province and, due to this fact, clearly native.

Myers and Leviton started their paper with:

The newt occurring on Hong Kong Island and a small a part of the close by mainland (mainly the hills of the Kowloon space has historically been recognized with the newt inhabiting the Ningpo area of east-central China. The latter was named by Grey (1859) as Cynops chinensis. The 2 varieties have been separated subspecifically by Herre (1939), mainly on osteological characters, however he erred in renaming the northern type, leaving the Hong Kong inhabitants anonymous.

So far as I could make out (I’ve not seen the unique paper) that Herr Herre (for there are two within the story) named the northern type T. sinensis boringi, presumably as a result of a pupil of hers had discovered newts recognized as this species in Chekiang (Zhejiang) province which might be anticipated since Mr Fortune had discovered Grey’s kind specimen within the north of that province close to Ningpo (Ningbo).

Karl Wolfgang Herre (1902-1997) attracts little consideration today. The paper Myers and Leviton referred to was a survey of Asian and North American urodeles. For his PhD awarded in 1932 he labored on the subspecies of Triturus cristatus, the Nice Crested Newt of Europe. He later labored on the College of Halle and, part-time, on the Pure Historical past Museum in Brunswick. He continued to work on urodeles for many of his life together with the endocrine management of metamorphosis and fossil salamanders. A biography on Wikipedia in German exhibits that he was a member of the Sturmabteilung—the S.A. ‘Brownshirts’—and of the Nationalsozialistischer Lehrerbund, NSLB—the Nationwide Socialist Academics League—from 1934 and of the Nazi Social gathering itself from 1937. It was throughout this time that he collaborated with different herpetologists within the research of newts and salamanders, together with Wilhelm Georg Wolterstorff (1864–1943), a significant participant in analysis on newts and salamanders and in selling beginner herpetology via the conserving of dwell animals and in linking amateurs with skilled museum scientists. In 1936 Herre was co-author of a paper with Louis Lantz, the French ‘beginner’ working in Manchester. The Second World Struggle would see the co-authors on very completely different sides with Lantz being the consultant of the Free French Forces. Postwar we be taught, ‘After navy service and captivity’, Herre went to Christian-Albrechts-College in Kiel ‘within the late summer season of 1945’. He grew to become a nutritionist and deputy director of the Zoological Institute and Museum and the Museum of Ethnology. In 1947 he was appointed director of a brand new institute for home animals. There he labored on domestication, significantly of canines.

1962. The ‘new’species

The supply of the fabric Myers and Leviton used to erect a brand new species may be very attention-grabbing because it concerned two worldwide networks one, prewar, in fisheries analysis and the opposite, postwar, of these concerned with aquarium fish. The kind specimen—the holotype—for the brand new species was collected by Geoffrey Herklots from a stream on the Peak of Hong Kong Island. It was given to Dr Albert William Christian Theodore Herre (1868-1962) (the opposite Herr Herre) who from 1928 till 1946 was Curator of Zoology at Stanford College’s Pure Historical past Museum. Earlier than that he had been Chief of Fisheries with the Bureau of Science within the Philippines. The date given for the addition of three different specimens added to Stanford’s assortment and designated as paratypes was 1941. The person who gave the specimens to this Herre was Herklots’s shut colleague S.Y. Lin (Lin Shu-Yen) (1903-1974); they co-authored a ebook, Widespread Meals Fishes of Hong Kong, in 1940. Lin was the person working fisheries analysis in Thirties Hong Kong together with Herklots who was in command of the biology division on the College of Hong Kong. Lin was then or grew to become Superintendent of Fisheries Analysis for the Hong Kong Authorities. He was later recruited by the Meals and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations to work in Washington DC as an knowledgeable in fresh-water fisheries and pond-fish tradition. After that he labored in Taiwan in fisheries analysis.

What we have no idea is why Lin handed specimens of the Hong Kong Newt to Herre, presumably in 1941 simply earlier than the Japanese invasion and occupation. Was Herklots eager to get one other opinion as to their identification? Or was the request handed to Hong Kong from Stanford as its pursuits in systematics and taxonomy and its museum expanded? Was Herre visiting Hong Kong (which he had accomplished within the Twenties) or have been the specimens despatched by publish? There could also be solutions mendacity in archives.

The historical past of the dwell specimens despatched to Stanford within the Nineteen Fifties can be attention-grabbing. The paper states of one of many designated paratypes:

U 20280, feminine, Kowloon Mountains*, collected in January 1952, by J. D. Romer and despatched alive to the senior creator by Mme. Natasha de [sic] Breuil.

John Romer (1920-1982) and Natasha du Breuil (ca 1891-1966) have featured prominently in earlier articles I’ve written, as has George Sprague Myers (1905-1985) at Stanford.

Myers had a lifelong curiosity in aquaria and his skilled actions in ichthyology and herpetology grew from and remained intertwined with others who saved, imported and bred fishes for the house aquarium. In that respect he labored on The Aquarium with William T. Innes and was scientific editor for the latter’s well-known ebook, Unique Aquarium Fishes. He additionally edited The Aquarium Journal.

Contact between Myers and Natasha du Breuil would have been through a worldwide correspondence group established by Gene Wolfsheimer, Aquarists’ Internationale. Because of the actions of that group now we have extra info on when dwell Hong Kong newts have been despatched to Myers. 

Within the particular Coronation Subject (June-July 1953) of Water Life journal it was reported that Mme. du Breuil had ‘achieved a profitable cargo of dwell newts by air to Dr G Myers (U.S.A.). It’s believed that this species of newt…has not often been imported alive into the US. The newts for the particular cargo have been collected regionally by Mr Romer…’

Simply as with the sooner passage of specimens from Herklots through Lin to Herre at Stanford, we have no idea who instigated the transport of dwell specimens from Romer through Natasha du Breuil to Myers who labored alongside Herre at Stanford. Had been the Stanford taxonomists searching for extra specimens with the intention to work on this newt or was John Romer searching for some knowledgeable taxonomist to take a recent take a look at the identification of the Hong Kong newt?

Regardless of the motivation, it took ten years for the paper by Myers and Alan Edward Leviton (whose main curiosity was in herpetology and is now Curator of Herpetology Emeritus on the California Academy of Sciences). It’s clear from the outline of the brand new species that the dwell specimens despatched by Natasha du Breuil have been of nice worth. As a result of the coloration of preserved amphibians is modified so markedly it’s troublesome if not inconceivable to incorporate color in formal descriptions of lifeless materials. Myers and Levition did embody such info since Myers, a minimum of, had seen and recorded what the dwell newts appear to be.

Telling t’different from which

Myers and Leviton in contrast the specimens of Hong Kong newts with Grey’s Cynops chinensis (now Paramesotriton chinensis) which is saved on the Pure Historical past Museum in London. Grey’s account suggests Mr Fortune’s bottle contained only one particular person. Nonetheless, the Museum’s information present there have been two and since Grey didn’t point out which was the ‘kind’ (holotype) they’re regarded formally as syntypes, i.e. one in all a number of specimens in a sequence of equal rank used to explain the brand new species the place the creator has not designated a single holotype. Myers and Leviton thanked Alice ‘Bunty’ Georgie Cruikshank Grandison (1927-2014) who was curator in command of amphibians and reptiles on the Museum. It seems that she despatched one of many two from Mr Fortune’s bottle to Stanford.

Myers and Leviton initially positioned the Hong Kong Newt within the genus Trituroides. All what have come to be often known as the Asian Warty Newts have extra lately been positioned within the genus Paramesotriton.

That is how they distinguished hongkongensis from chinensis:

Differs from the extra northerly T. chinensis (Grey) within the a lot smoother, much less tuberculated (versus very tough, strongly warty) pores and skin of the pinnacle and trunk; shorter and fewer divergent patches of parasphenoid enamel; a broader head and interorbital area; the presence of a definite median parietal ridge; the presence of enormous (versus very small) spots (purple in life) on the gular area; and the presence of a steady mild (purple) streak (versus an interrupted one alongside the inferior midline of the basal a part of the tail; and far stronger dorsolateral ridges.

Aside from a desk of fundamental measurements evaluating seven Hong Kong Newts with the syntype of chinensis (no variations are obvious) the differentiation was typical of the follow of taxonomy. The comparability is solely qualitative with no try at quantification. Introduced with a specimen of both species how would an observer know whether or not or not the pores and skin was smoother or much less tuberculated or the pinnacle broader?

From Myers & Leviton 1962
The underside specimen is that collected by Mr Fortune and described by Grey

Is the Hong Kong Newt actually a separate species?

The naming of the Hong Kong Newt as Trituroides hongkongensis and now Paramesotriton hongkongensis as a separate species endemic to the territory of Hong Kong and the instantly adjoining areas of Guandong province all the time appeared to me considerably anomalous. Why ought to that tiny little bit of China have a particular species as the one urodele in its native fauna? Might or not it’s, for instance, that there have been/are undiscovered populations between Hong Kong and Ningbo and that Grey’s chinensis and hongkongensis are the 2 ends of a cline of 1 species?

So far as I perceive what has occurred in more moderen years the Hong Kong Newt was lumped again into Paramesotriton chinensis round 1990 however then break up off once more extra lately. At current, and supported by restricted proof from mitochondrial DNA, the Hong Kong Newt nonetheless stands because the species Paramesotriton hongkongensis. An account might be discovered on AmphibiaWeb right here.

*Previous Hong Kong residents will recognise this acknowledged location as an issue. Kowloon Mountain (no plural) or Kowloon Peak (Fei Ngo Shan) was a particular location finest described as north-east of the outdated Kai Tak Airport. I strongly suspect that the placement given, Kowloon Mountains, must be with out that ultimate s.  The mountains in mainland Hong Kong mislead within the New Territories, north of Kowloon. I’m fairly certain John Romer wouldn’t have used Kowloon Mountains for a location apart from Kowloon Peak. Certainly he refers to Kowloon Peak as a location for the species in his 1951 paper.

Böhme W. 1998. In memoriam Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Wolf Herre (1909-1997) – ein Zoologe mit bedeutendem amphibienkundlichen Werkanteil. Salamandra 31, 1-6.

Grey JE. 1859. Descriptions of recent species of salamanders from China and Siam. Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London 1859, 229-230, plate 19.

Herre W. 1939. Studien an asiatischen und nordamerikanischen Salamandriden. Abhandlungen und Berichte aus dem Museum für Natur- und Heimatkunde und dem Naturwissenschaftlichen Verein in Magdeburg 7, 79-98.

Myers GS, Leviton AE. 1962. The Hong Kong Newt described as a brand new species. Occasional Papers of the Division of Systematic Biology of Stanford College No 10, 1-4.

Romer JD. 1951. Observations on the habits and life-history of the Chinese language Newt, Cynops chinensis Grey. Copeia 1951, 213-219.

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