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The Antarctic is very much the flavour of the month here. To mark the 100th anniversary of Scott reaching the South Pole, a new exhibition opened on 20th Jan at the Museum. The Museum holds over 40,000 items relating to Scott's Terra Nova Expedition of 1910 so I thought I would show you details of one of the treasures that remains hidden from view. A wonderful book of bound documents tells the story of Edward Heron Allen and Arthur Earland's study of the Terra Nova material; how the collection was acquired, studied and the significance of the discoveries that they made.

 

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The start of the letter from Edward W. Nelson to Arthur Earland prior to the expedition.

 

In my microfossil Christmas card post I mentioned that Heron-Allen and Earland had worked on material from Scott's Terra Nova Expedition of 1910. Although they had not been on the trip, a letter from crew member and biologist Edward W Nelson (1883-1923) clearly shows that Earland had been in contact before the trip to encourage Nelson to look out for foraminifera. The exhibition at the Museum has a picture of Nelson along with all of the other crew members and outlines some of the scientific research that went on as part of the expedition as well as the expedition to the South Pole.

 

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Part of the Heron-Allen Type Slide Collection from the Terra Nova Expedition material.

 

The Terra Nova was the ship that carried Scott and his party to the Antarctic and lent its name to the expedition. Samples were collected from the ocean bottom as it travelled from Britain via the Atlantic Ocean to the Antarctic. While in the Antarctic, ocean bottom samples were dredged too, many of which contained the remains of foraminifera. Even while Scott was on his way to and from the South Pole, the Terra Nova was collecting scientific material from Antarctic region.

 

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Heron-Allen's signed personal annotated copy of the 1922 publication with Arthur Earland and part of one of the letters from Sydney Harmer bound next to it.

 

The Keeper of Zoology at the Museum at the time was Dr Sydney Harmer who had worked with Terra Nova expedition member D. G. Lilley to publish a list of the samples and sampling details. The first set of letters are from Harmer inviting Heron-Allen and Earland to work on the material. They clearly state that the authors will not be paid and that the final work will be edited by Harmer himself. Neither of them were ever officially employed by the museum but had an honorary status and were provided room to work at the Museum.

 

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Portraits of Heron-Allen and Earland now hanging in the Museum micropalaeontology library, The Heron-Allen Library.

 

Harmer wrote, 'In a group like the foraminifera I imagine that you would have no difficulty in putting on one side enough duplicates to compensate you in some measure for the trouble of working out the collection.' A later letter states 'I am delighted to have placed it in the hands of an enthusiast to whom no trouble seems too great.' A number of years later, Heron-Allen donated his entire foraminiferal collection to the Museum so all of the original samples, the described material and Heron-Allen's slides are now in our care.

 

This type of information about the acquisition of the collection is very important as it clearly states the agreement between the scientists about how and where the material should be deposited. Heron-Allen was certainly the curator's friend because of the meticulous way he documented and kept relevant archival correspondence and other materials associated with his collections.

 

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Part of one of the illustrations of foraminifera hand drawn by Mary H Brooks.

 

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The receipt for payment for the artwork sent by Mary H. Brooks. It was paid for by Heron-Allen himself.

 

Heron-Allen's copy of the paper is also annotated in red ink with references to slides in the Museum collections. Heron-Allen constructed a series of 'type slides' for all of the samples that he worked on. For the Terra Nova Expedition these were slides showing good examples of each of the foraminiferal species encountered at each collecting station of the expedition. As a result this library volume is an extremely useful reference to researchers looking at Terra Nova collections and is a great example of the value of the library items that accompany the collections here at the Museum.

 

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Details of some of the 'type slides' from the collection. The material in these slides was being collected by the crew of the Terra Nova from Antarctic waters at the time that Scott was attempting to return from the South Pole.

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Some annotations in red made by Heron-Allen that links the published text directly to the 'type slides' illustrated above.

 

650 species of foraminifera are described in the publication with 46 new to science. Many forms previously described from the Arctic were also recognised in the Antarctic and the previous theory of bipolarity that foraminifera evolved independently in the Arctic and Antarctic was discounted. Many isomorphs (species made of silica where previously found examples were calcareous) were also discovered. A letter in French from the famous foraminiferologist Schlumberger discusses this issue and is also bound into the volume.

 

It would appear from the correspondence bound into the book after the annotated copy of the paper that the authors had a great many problems in the editorial stage of their publication. There are many letters between Heron-Allen and Harmer discussing issues about the publication proofs. In one letter, Harmer requests that Heron-Allen cuts down the size of the manuscript by reducing the size of the appendices. The volume ends with a poem written by Heron-Allen that starts:

 

Goodbye old friend our task is over

we bid farewell to the 'Terra Nova'

Henceforth will life be somewhat calmer

For me - 'Eugenie' and Sydney Harmer

 

The 100th anniversary of the tragic demise of Captain Scott quite rightly makes the headlines. However, it should not be forgotten that the Terra Nova Expedition was responsible for many new scientific discoveries. This amazing volume of hidden treasures is testament to Heron-Allen's meticulous record keeping but also to some of the discoveries that are not normally associated with the Terra Nova Expedition. The new exhibition at the Museum strikes a good balance between telling the story of Captain Scott and highlighting the scientific breakthroughs that resulted from the expedition.

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So how do you get a fossil named after you? The easiest way is to make friends with a Palaeontologist who is good at discovering things and is looking for names to call their new finds. A slightly harder way is to find a new fossil species and give it to a Palaeontologist who names it after you.  (In case you were wondering, it is against the rules to call new discoveries after yourself ). Just before ChristmasI had a visit from my old friend Stuart Sutherland from Canada who named a fossil after me back in 1994. I have four fossils named after me and have named some after others too. Here are the stories behind each of them.

 

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On graduation day in 1993; Professor David Siveter, Andrew Swift, Stuart Sutherland and a young looking Giles Miller.

 

Stuart and I were studying for our PhDs at the University of Leicester in the late 1980s and early 1990s. We both had similar field areas in the Welsh Borderland around Ludlow and often scheduled fieldwork for the same time, occasionally helping each other to collect study samples. One summer evening I was helping Stuart to collect samples deep in the Mortimer Forest outside Ludlow. Foolishly I managed to hammer my thumb drawing blood and we had to return to our accomodation early.

 

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Angochitina milleri Sutherland, 1994. This chitinozoan is less than half a millimetre in length.

 

I didn’t realise but Stuart made a note of the sample number and once he dissolved it back in the lab, he found a new species of chitinozoan that he named Angochitina milleri Sutherland, 1994 in my honor. Chitinozoans are tiny organic jug shaped organisms. To this day is it still unclear what they are but they are very useful age diagnostic constituents of marine rocks in the middle Palaeozoic era (very roughly 360-480 Million years ago). Some think that they are some sort of egg case as they sometimes appear linked in chains.

 

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The ostracod Progonocythere milleri Wakefield, 1994 from the Jurassic of Scotland. It is just less than a millimetre long.

 

While Stuart and I were living in Leicester we shared a house with our good friend Matthew Wakefield who was studying ostracods from the Jurassic of the Inner Hebrides, Scotland. He had discovered several new species that he kindly named after his housemates. New species number 2 is therefore Progonocythere milleri Wakefield, 1994. You will notice that after each milleri is the name of the author and the date of publication. I am honoured to have both of these two species named after me and published in Monographs of the Palaeontological Society, a very prestigious journal that has also published Darwin’s work. The holotype of P. milleri also resides in the collections currently in my care.

 

The third milleri is more tenuous as the author, Jonathan Adrain (now University of Iowa) discovered lots of new species of trilobite from the Canadian Arctic while he was working at the Museum. He discovered so many that he decided to use the phone list of the Department of Palaeontology at the time to name his various new species. Hence Gerastos milleri Adrain, 1997. In fact there were not enough names on the list to completely cover all his new discoveries so he decided to name some of them after his favourite pop group, The Beatles. His publications therefore include a macartneyi a harrisoni and a petebesti!

 

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Kannathalepis milleri Marss & Gagnier, 2001, scales from an ancient fish from the Canadian Arctic.


At the time I asked Jonathan if he could provide some spare rock from his trilobite studies so that I could attempt to extract microfossils. Some of these samples contained some fish scales that I passed on to my good friend Dr Tiiu Märss of Tallinn Technical University, Estonia with whom I was working at the time. One of these samples contained some fragments of a new fish hence the fourth new species named after me Kanathalepis milleri Märss and Gagnier, 2001.

 

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Pictures taken on fieldwork with Tiiu in 1995; with Peter Tarrant at Man Brook and taking a sample from under a tree half way up Caer Caradoc, Shropshire.


Tiiu also passed me some samples from the Canadian Arctic from which I discovered some new species of ostracod that I named Beyrichia marssae Miller, Siveter and Williams, 2010 and Platybolbina adraini Miller, Siveter and Williams, 2010 in honour of Tiiu and Jonathan. However, you will notice from the date after these names that it took me a much longer time to publish my new species!

 

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Beyrichia marssae and Platybolbina adraini.


As you can see from the stories above, the naming of species new to science sometimes provides historical information about the lives of scientists, their collections and collaborations. Working at the Museum and being involved in science has meant that I have met a lot of people from all around the world, some of whom have decided to honour me by naming new species after me for various reasons.

 

Sometimes names become superceded when later research shows that they were not really new. Someone may have already described them or they could be a smaller part of something already described. As far as I know all the milleris are still as valid as the friendships gained through working in science. It was lovely to speak to my Estonian colleague Tiiu while working on this post. I see Matt Wakefield regularly at scientific meetings about ostracods. It has also been great to see my old friend Stuart again.

Giles Miller

Giles Miller

Member since: Apr 21, 2010

This is Giles Miller's Curator of Micropalaeontology blog. I make the Museum micropalaeontology collections available to visitors from all over the world, publish articles on the collections, give public talks and occasionally make collections myself.

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