In the course of the six centuries and more considered here, the concept of the naturalist and of the work that he or she undertakes in the field gradually took form and continues to develop. The status of the practitioners involved is so widely disparate as to defy easy categorization. In these introductory remarks some of the principal communities – arbitrarily defined – contributing to this movement are reviewed: a number of the most significant figures emerged from within the academic milieu, conducting their work initially in the tradition of the classical authors whose tracts held sway until the late Renaissance, yet they were increasingly reliant on the ocular evidence on which the New Science was built; others came from outside this tradition but contributed invaluable personal experience, insight and knowledge, practically acquired. Both are celebrated here, and their mutually enriching relationships are explored. Other essays here adopt a more specific focus in order to chart the ways in which the field practice that lies at the heart of this volume was guided and influenced by those who commissioned collecting expeditions – initially the founders of collectors’ cabinets, later the owners of systematic collections and ultimately the curators of veritable natural history museums. All of these operated in the role of sponsors for the field naturalists and all were anxious that material should reach them not only in optimum condition but with appropriate contextual data. Their demands were communicated variously in the course of correspondence, in printed pamphlets and ultimately in book-length instructions published for the benefit of those in the field: some of these texts are reproduced verbatim as appendices at the end of the volume.
The last forty years of the eighteenth century saw a surge of geographical discovery in the Pacific. Expeditions from several European countries mapped a myriad of islands in the vast ocean, while naturalists on the discovery vessels collected an overwhelming bounty of flora and fauna. Their lot was not an easy one, for both on board ship and ashore danger alternated with boredom and discomfort; quarrels with the ships’ officers, who had very different priorities, were frequent. Nor did these difficulties end upon the naturalists’ returning home, where their specimens were often neglected and recognition for years of work proved elusive.
Zoraptera are a cryptic and enigmatic group of insects. The species diversity is lower than in almost all other groups of Hexapoda, but may be distinctly higher than presently known. Several new species were described from different regions recently. The systematic placement was discussed controversially since the group was discovered 100 years ago. Affinities with Isoptera and Psocoptera were discussed in earlier studies. A sister group relationship with Acercaria (Psocodea, Thysanoptera, Hemiptera) was proposed by W. Hennig, for the first time based on a strictly phylogenetic argumentation. More recent studies consistently suggest a placement among the “lower neopteran orders” (Polyneoptera). Close affinities to Dictyoptera were proposed and alternatively a sister group relationship with Embioptera or with Embioptera + Phasmatodea (Eukinolabia), respectively. The precise placement is still controversial and the intraordinal relationships are largely unclear. Recent transcriptome analyses tentatively suggest a clade Zoraptera + Dermaptera as sister group of all other polyneopteran orders. The oldest fossils are from Cretaceous amber. An extinct genus from this era may be the sister group of all the remaining zorapterans. The knowledge of the morphology, development and features related to the reproductive system greatly increased in recent years. The general body morphology is very uniform, whereas the genitalia differ strongly between species. This is likely due to different kinds of selection, i.e. sexual selection in the case of the genital organs. The mating pattern also differs profoundly within the order. A unique external sperm transfer occurs in Zorotypus impolitus. A species-level phylogeny and more investigations of the reproductive system should have high priority.
Mark Catesby’s Natural History of Carolina, Florida, and the Bahama Islands was one of the most expensive publications of the eighteenth century: lauded by many, and celebrated for its 220 hand-coloured etchings, it brought instant renown to its author. The 150-plus copies found homes in the libraries and cabinets of subscribers, and the original watercolours were eventually acquired by George III (today in the Royal Library at Windsor). The etchings illustrate flora and fauna in a broad sense, but Catesby’s birds – which occupy fully one-half of the illustrations – have always held centre stage, and Catesby has been called the “founder of American ornithology”. Here we concentrate on the birds and seek to understand why Catesby focused on certain species and not others; why he “collected” certain birds for “illumination”, which he regarded as the prerequisite to “perfect understanding”; why he pictured certain birds with certain plants; what sense he made of birds in a text whose structure can be traced in part to John Ray’s Ornithology of Francis Willughby, and whose content reflects the Baconian principle of “ocular testimony”; and how text and image together reflect considerations variously linked to geography, habitat, diet, ecology, the commodification of flora, and patrons or subscribers – all of which influenced what he thought about and selected in order to illustrate and discuss natural history.