Friday mystery object #418 answer

Last week I gave you this Blaschka model to have a go at identifying:

It certainly has a bit of a Christmas decoration vibe about it, which in my experience means it must be a radiolarian. These models were made later than the models I’ve shared before, so they don’t appear in the 1878 H.A. Ward catalogue that I’ve linked to previously. They do appear in the 1888 catalogue however, but that has proved difficult to track down online.

Regardless, the Corning Museum of Glass has an impressive archive of Blaschka art works and a bit of careful image searching can yield some very helpful clues to the identity of this specimen.

As you can see from this artwork (which itself was presumably copied from the Report of the United States Geological Survey of the Territories ; v. 12: Fresh-water rhizopods of North America (with thanks to Emmanuel for the pointer to this publication on Twitter), the species is Raphidiophrys elegans Hertwig & Lesser 1874 (emended Penard 1904) and its number in the 1888 Ward catalogue was 636.

The Blaschkas regularly copied illustrations as a basis for their models, often sticking very closely to the source material. I expect Rudolf Blaschka did much of this copy work, since he seems to have had a finer hand than his father Leopold. The accuracy of the copies and the fact that they are often mirrored from the original work does suggest that Rudolf used a glass plate to assist with the copying process.

If you’re not familiar with how that works, here’s a old skool explanation:

I know doing image searches doesn’t really count as an honest biological method of identifying the type of radiolarian depicted in the model, but quite frankly I’m primarily a zoologist – I have my limits and if the method works, why not use it?

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