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Sabella spallanzanii from Java?

Helmut Zibrowius hzibrowi at com.univ-mrs.fr
Fri Dec 1 14:00:07 EST 1995

CHAETZONE no. 9 edited by G. Read contains some information on S. 
spallanzanii, part of which which is quoted here: 

    From Phyllis Knight-Jones <pknight-jones at bryngwyn.demon.co.uk>

  As readers of Chaetozone
  will know there has been great interest in the discovery of a vast
  population of this species in Geelong harbour near Melbourne since Carey
  and Watson's report (Carey J.M. and Watson J.E., 1992. Benthos of the
  muddy bottom habitat of the Geelong arm of Port Phillip Bay, Victoria,
  Australia. _The Victorian Naturalist_ pp. 196-202.) I examined the Siboga
  material from a reef off Nusa-Laut Island, Indonesia (46m depth), but it
  is not _Sabella spallanzanii_ ('Spirographis Spallanzanii'). It is in
  fact _Bispira tricyclia_ (Schmarda), the only unispiral _Bispira_ in the
  genus (as amended in Perkins and Knight-Jones, 1991). The two species
  were wrongly synonymised by Fauvel (eg. 1953).

  After very interesting studies on the Amsterdam collections (various
  genera), Harry ten Hove accompanied us to Leiden and had the foresight to
  search for unregistered (unidentified) sabellid collections, while I
  browsed through official holdings. Knowing of my interests in both
  Indonesia and _Sabellastarte_, he selected a jar of very large sabellids
  labelled 'Kuhl, Java'. Examination proved this to be six specimens of
  _Sabella spallanzanii_. Jacob van der Land informed us that Dr Kuhl, a
  young short-lived medic, collected these in 1820, but no further details
  of location are available. Kuhl was a mainly terrestrial naturalist,
  perhaps without naval support, so one might speculate that the material
  was gathered in a convenient harbour, perhaps Batavia, now known as

  Now this Indonesian material is identified, 165 years after it was
  collected, we have reliable records of _Sabella spallanzanii_ from the
  Mediterranean, NW France, Azores, Rio de Janeiro, Java and Australia. The
  oldest records are from the Mediterranean and Java, the next oldest
  probably Hanson's (1882) descriptions from Rio under 4 different names,
  all synonyms with _spallanzanii_. It is interesting to note that these
  locations coincide with the old sailing route to Asia, though a notable
  absence is the revictualling stop at Cape Town. There, however, the
  original harbours are long since under concrete. -- Phyllis Knight-Jones
As I already informed Phyllis, I have a comment concerning the KUHL Java 
1820 record.

   I would be less confident in this record. Have come across many 
errors concerning old material, and including the Challenger! But I am 
confident in Jacob van der Land's detective and archeologist work: that 
Kuhl was a medic who traveled to Java around 1820.

   Take the following case which, I presume, may throw some doubt on 
the Javanese origin of those old Leiden S. spallanzanii:

   My detailed investigations on the colonial scleractinian coral 
Sclerhelia hirtella (Pallas, 1766) suggest that this species is a true 
endemic of St. Helena, South Atlantic.
(Zibrowius H., 1974. Redescription of Sclerhelia hirtella from Saint Helena,
South Atlantic, and remarks on Indo-Pacific species erroneously referred to 
the same genus (Scleractinia). Journal of natural history, 8 (5): 563-575. -
- Further information to be included into a more comprehensive coral fauna 
of St. Helena, in preparation.)
   St. Helena is known as the British base where the Corsican/French 
military dictator Napoleon had been exiled to. Before the opening of the 
Suez Canal the isalnd had some importance as a revictualling stop 
on the way to and from India.
   Pallas (1766), the author of Sclerhelia hirtella (first illustration by 
Ellis & Solander, 1786) presented the species as "very rarely received from 
the Indian Ocean". INDIAN OCEAN as the origin of the species has been 
reiterated several times until 185O. Only in 1857 Milne Edwards & Haime 
have been able to indicate St. Helena as the true origine of that species, 
on the basis of more precisely recorded material. In fact, at St. Helena 
the species is common and lives from a few meters depth to deeper water, 
thus accessible to anchor lines and fishing gear even in former times.
No surprise that occasionally it found its way into natural history 
cabenets in Euriope.

   Back to S. spallanzanii and having in mind the coral story above:   
   Kuhl may well have got his sabellid worms somewhere in western Europe on 
his way BACK from Java.

   Or perhaps from the hull of the ship that took him to Java???

   See the following case: A sample of Hydroides elegans, the now worldwide 
fouling serpulid in tropical and warm-temperate waters (harbour communities 
and ship hulls, has well been brought back from the remote St. Paul and 
Amsterdam islands, southern Indian Ocean (halfway between South Africa and 
Australia): not from (unexisting) harbours there, but from the cooling 
water intake sieve of a French vessel fishing spiny lobsters around those 

   Some further comments or similar observations?

  (Centre d'Oceanologie de Marseille)
  Station Marine d'Endoume
  Rue Batterie des Lions
  13007 Marseille / France
  TEL: (intern. - 33) 9 1 0 4 1 6 2 4
  FAX: (intern. - 33) 9 1 0 4 1 6 3 5
  E-MAIL: <hzibrowi at com.univ-mrs.fr>

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