Friday mystery object #434 answer

Last week I gave you a Blaschka glass model from the Dead Zoo to have a go at identifying:

As you are probably aware from some of my previous posts on these rather fascinating objects, there can be quite a big difference between what the specimen was sold as in the Blaschka catalogue and what we might call the species today. In fact, this is a fairly common theme with many of the mystery objects, given the relentless progress being made in taxonomy since many museum collections were established.

In the case of Blaschka models this can cause a lot of confusion, since in some collections the names have been updated to match modern taxonomy, whereas in others the original name is still used. Most confusing is where the taxonomy was updated historically (and badly) so it no longer bears much relation to either the original name or the current name. That’s why the ordering numbers used by Ward are so useful, as it allows specimens to be tracked back to the catalogue (as long as the original number has survived).

Another way to figure out which species your Blaschka model might be is to look through the illustrations that the Blaschka’s used as the basis of their models. In the case of sea anemones that usually means checking the plates in Actinologia britannica. A history of the British sea-anemones and corals. by Philip Henry Gosse, 1860.

In this case Plate VIII has the goods:

As identified on Twitter by Ann Lingard and in the comments by Cam, the mystery object is of course Gosse’s Stomphia Churchiae or more recently Stomphia coccinea (Müller, 1776).

This is one of those times when it’s a real shame that the species has been synonymised, since Gosse named the species Churchiae in honour of Miss Anne Church, who had sent him a written description and figures of the species after recovering a specimen from a turbot net in Loch Long, Scotland. Thanks to Ann Lingard for sharing a link to an interesting blogpost on “The anemonizers of Scotland” touching on this (see also p.233 of Actinologia britannica).

Finally, with the original name, the number from the Ward catalogue comes easily, which in this instance is Nr.108.

I hope you enjoyed this diversion into the world of the Blaschkas – no doubt there will be more to come in future as I’ll be talking about them at a glass conference in a month’s time.

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