A series of bush crickets (sauterelles, katydids) collected in the New World in the nineteenth century was borrowed for study by American researchers more than 60 years ago. They were returned unannounced last year and included, as expected, specimens described by Henri de Saussure. Unexpectedly, there were also specimens that were probably the basis for species descriptions by his friend Karl Brunner von Wattenwyl, another leading Orthoptera specialist of the day. Some of these type specimens were presumed to have been lost, and so their reappearance at the Museum is doubly valuable for science.
Just like today, the nineteenth-century scientists of Geneva Museum relied on their relationships with experts associated with other institutions to complement their skill base and have access to specimens. They also built up networks of explorers, businessmen and other travellers as well as Swiss living abroad to enrich the Museum collections. The grasshopper and cricket collections of the Geneva Museum are testimony to the success of this strategy, containing specimens sent from all over the world. Many were studied by scientists like Saussure and Alphonse Pictet who were associated with the Museum, but they were also available to other workers including Brunner von Wattenwyl and Josef Redtenbacher from Vienna, both of whom described many species based on specimens in the Museum collection.
One of the notable aspects of Henri de Saussure’s work was the closeness of his collaboration with other naturalists, even publishing joint papers, something that is commonplace today but was rare in the nineteenth century. An example of this spirit of cooperation is shown when Saussure and Pictet, who had started a study of the leaf-mimicking bush crickets (Pseudophyllinae), discovered that Brunner von Wattenwyl was already working on the group. They allowed him to work on the material in Geneva, contenting themselves with publishing the few species they had already described. Colour printing was not usual at this time, and colour plates were hand painted, at great cost and labour. The plates of this publication found a simple short-cut; they were monochrome, but printed in green ink!
→ Article scientifique disponible gratuitement : HOLLIER, J. 2019. The type specimens of the bush cricket genera Anaulacomera Stål, 1873 and Furnia Stål, 1876 (Orthoptera: Tettigoniidae) held in the Muséum d’histoire naturelle de Genève. Revue Suisse de Zoologie 126: 73-77.