History

Euplectella aspergillum Venus flower basket was first described by Sir Richard Owen, in 1841 in the Transactions of the Zoological Society.

Sir Richard Owen was the first Director of the Natural History Museum when it moved to South Kensington and the man who coined the term “dinosaur”.

Type specimen

The type specimen of the sponge was actually collected by Hugh Cuming, one of the leading conchologists of his day, whose collection was purchased by the Museum in 1866, at some time during his voyage to the Philippine Islands (1836-1840). Unfortunately Cuming’s journals for this voyage were lost and so we can only hazard a guess as to when the specimen was collected.

In a letter Cuming wrote to Owen from Manila on 1 November 1837, he said…” I trust you will be pleased with my labours, don’t say I have been idle. I have now collected 1809 species of shells, 1900 do [ditto] plants, you know the rest, all in 13 months work…” So it seems possible that the sponge was collected during this period

Glossary

Conchologists is a person who studies the branch of zoology that deals with the study of molluscs, specifically their shells.

Type specimen is a specimen selected to serve as a reference point when a species is first named. As a result, these specimens are extremely important to scientists who are attempting to determine the correct application of a name.

Holotype is the single specimen which is used to define the characteristics for a new species by an author and is therefore designated as the type specimen by the author at the time of publication of that description.