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RSEHN >> Publicaciones >> Bol. R. Soc. Esp. Hist. Nat. 2, 2015 >> Artículos de investigación

Bol. R. Soc. Esp. Hist. Nat. 2, 2015


Artículos de investigación

Una aproximación a la colección herpetológica del Viajero Naturalista Louis Daniel Beauperthuy (1807-1871) en el Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle de Paris.


An approach to the herpetological collection of the Naturalist Traveler Louis Daniel Beauperthuy (1807-1871) at the Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle of Paris

José E. García de los Ríos, Irene Bosch, Laure Pierre-Huyet, Fernando J. M. Rojas-Runjaic y J. Celsa Señaris

Bol. R. Soc. Esp. Hist. Nat. 2: 111-123, 2015

Resumen

Louis Daniel Beauperthuy (1807-71), nacido en Guadalupe, graduado en Medicina en París y establecido en la ciudad de Cumaná (Venezuela), tuvo también una intensa vida como Viajero Naturalista del Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle (MNHN) de París (Francia). Hemos podido digitalizar y estudiar el contenido científico del archivo de Beauperthuy en Caracas (Venezuela), que contiene copias de la correspondencia que mantuvo con el MNHN. Comprobamos que su labor como Viajero Naturalista había durado sólo cuatro años, de 1838 a 1841, puesto que dejó de percibir la asignación que debía enviarle un intermediario. Durante ese corto periodo, tuvo tiempo de enviar una gran cantidad de muestras de diferentes islas del Caribe y de la llamada Tierra Firme. De la totalidad de las muestras, hemos estudiado las correspondientes a l’Ensemble de Vertébrés, Reptiles et Amphibiens. En este trabajo se trata de una parte de los ejemplares de la Clase Reptilia que han podido sacarse a la luz una vez superados los errores de catalogación y etiquetado, principalmente en las denominaciones del viajero y en la procedencia de las muestras. Las serpientes que se presentan pertenecen a las siguientes familias y géneros, según la denominación original que aparece en los especímenes: Colubridae Oppel, 1811 (Erythrolamprus Boié, 1826, Brachyruton Duméril, Bibron & Duméril, 1854, Scytale Boié, 1826, Dromicus Duméril & Bibron, 1843, Liophis Wagler, 1830 y Elapomorphus Wiegmann, 1843), Boidae Gray, 1825 (Epicrates Wagler, 1830) y Elapidae, Boie,1827 (Elaps Schneider, 1801). El estudio de estos ejemplares nos ha permitido determinar las modificaciones que han ido apareciendo en la taxonomía y actualizar su clasificación, como se puede ver en la Tabla I.

Palabras clave: Beauperthuy, Colubridae, Erythrolamprus, Brachyruton, Scytale, Pseudoboa, Dromicus, Mastigodryas, Liophis, Elapomorphus, Boidae, Epicrates, Elapidae, Elaps, Micrurus.

Abstract

Louis-Daniel Beauperthuy (1807-1871) was a naturalist researcher and a medical doctor born on the Island of Guadalupe (French Antilles) who graduated from the Medical School in Paris. He established himself with his family in the city of Cumaná, in eastern Venezuela, where he led an intense life as a Naturalist Traveller of the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle (MNHN) in Paris, France and as a medical doctor from Venezuela and France. In 1853, during a Yellow Fever epidemic in Cumaná, Beauperthuy proposed the connection between mosquitos and the spread of the diseases, including fevers like Yellow Fever and malaria. Known at the time as recurrent and persistent fevers, Beauperthuy proposed that insects were the responsible intermediate for the transmission of the disease. According to Beauperthuy, the domestic mosquito, currently known as Aedes aegypti, was transmiting disease to humans by the bite and perforation of the skin and into the blood stream (published in the Gaceta de Cumaná in 1854). This was almost fifty years before the experimental confirmation was carried out by the U.S. Yellow Fever Commission, conducted by Jesse Lazear in 1900, and before Carlos Finlay in Cuba proposed in 1881 that mosquitoes were the vectors of the Yellow Fever. Among other observations of Beauperthuy were those relating to Cholera and Leprosy. In 1853, after a large magnitude earthquake, a cholera epidemic occurred in the city of Cumaná, Venezuela where Beauperthuy was working as a medical doctor. In some of the documents reviewed on this topic, we noted that Beauperthuy described the presence of microscopic ‘tape worms’ in the fluids form patients sickened after the earthquake. He observed in patients’ stools a great number of vibrios using the most powerful lens in his microscope. These observations were published in the Gaceta Oficial de Cumaná (1854) almost simultaneously with Pacini in Italy. These findings and other observations were published later in the Comptes Rendus des Séances de l’Académie des Sciences of Paris. The original instrument and the lenses he utilized are currently in the custody of the Instituto Venezolano de Investigaciones Científicas in Venezuela.

For Leprosy, Beauperthuy devoted his interest in the last years of his scientific life. He hospitalized patients and proposed treatments for the cure of ulcers and lepromas. His treatment was a great success in the Caribbean, reaching the British Guyana authorities, who hired him to build and direct one of the first Leprosy hospitals in the Americas located on the Island of Kaow, on the Mazaruni River. Unfortunately, Beauperthuy died only six months after the initiation of the project, in 1871, and his writings and research, still incomplete, were left in the custody of his brother.

We were able to digitize and analyze the scientific portions of the Beauperthuy family archive kept in Venezuela. This archive contains the correspondence maintained between Beauperthuy and the MNHN, addressed to Mr. Flourens, Professor of Physiology, as well as others generically addressed to as the Professors of the Museum. The correspondence details the shipments of specimens from the collections. Even before his work at the MNHN, he was able to send collections. In 1837, he sent a variety of insects (Coleoptera, Lepidoptera, Orthoptera, Hemiptera), and asked the MNHN to secure funding for further collections. On March 20th, 1838 he received an allocation of 2000 Francs for the first year and 6000 Francs for each of the next two years. He was given instructions on collecting specimens of plants, animals and minerals. The goal was to travel throughout the different provinces of Venezuela, through the Caribbean islands and in the surrounding parts of South America so as to collect samples in these three regions representing the different branches of the local natural history. He worked for the MNHN between 1838 and 1841, but due to irresponsible intermediaries in Europe, who apparently misused the funds assigned to him, his work ended. During this short period of time, he was able to classify, catalogue and ship a large number of samples from different Caribbean islands and from the mainland Venezuela (Tierra Firme or Gran Colombia), which are available at present time in that Museum.

Of the total samples available at the MNHN, we have studied those corresponding to the Ensemble de Vertébrés, Reptiles et Amphibiens. The present paper describes the partial characterization of the Class Reptilia. We reviewed and corrected labeling errors in the catalogues, mainly in reference to the spelling of the last name and the origin of the samples. The snakes described here belong to the following families and genera, and according to the original names assigned: Colubridae Oppel, 1811 (Erythrolamprus Boié, 1826, Brachyruton Duméril, Bibron & Duméril, 1854, Scytale Boié, 1826, Dromicus Duméril & Bibron, 1843, Liophis Wagler, 1830 and Elapomorphus Wiegmann, 1843), Boidae Gray, 1825 (Epicrates Wagler, 1830) and Elapidae Boie, 1827 (Elaps Schneider, 1801). The present study of vertebrates allowed us to determine the temporal changes in the taxonomy of such species, and to update their classification.

Keywords: Beauperthuy, Colubridae, Erythrolamprus, Brachyruton, Scytale, Pseudoboa, Dromicus, Mastigodryas, Liophis, Elapomorphus, Boidae, Epicrates, Elapidae, Elaps, Micrurus.





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(c) Real Sociedad Española de Historia Natural. Facultades de Biología y Geología. Universidad Complutense de Madrid. 28040-Madrid - e-mail: rsehno@bio.ucm.es