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Recent Acquisitions at the Natural History Museum

Nature volume 135, pages 179180 (02 February 1935) | Download Citation



AMONG the recent acquisitions at the British Museum (Natural History) is a collection of 910 Coleoptera comprising 197 named species of Carabidse (Trechinae) and 257 species of Silphidae (Bathysciinae and Catopinae) received from Dr. R. Jeannel, director of the Museum d'Histoire Naturelle of Paris. The main interest of these two groups of beetles is that they include the beetles that inhabit the extensive limestone caverns both of Europe and America. In the course of the ages that have elapsed since their ancestors left the free air and sunlight, various modifications for a cavernicolous habit have been evolved; thus, they have completely lost their eyes, their colour is an almost uniform reddish yellow, their legs have tended to lengthen while their wings have tended to disappear, and in some groups have been entirely lost, and their long isolation as separate colonies has brought about the evolution of distinct species in each different system of caverns. The Department of Mineralogy has received by exchange a portion (4,036 gm.) of a new meteoric stone from Lake Labyrinth in South Australia. A large series of specimens from the Libyan Desert has been collected by Dr. L. J. Spencer, keeper of minerals, while on the expedition of the Survey of Egypt to the Sand Sea in December. The object of the expedition was to investigate the origin of the lumps of pure silica-glass found on the surface in the stony or gravel 'streets' between the high (300 ft.) north-south dunes near the border of Italian Cyrenaica. Wind-worn pieces of clear glass were found in abundance over an area of 200 km. × 40 km., the largest lump weighing 16 Ib. Many of the pieces had been broken by primitive man and were associated with hundreds of thousands of flakes of glass and quartzite. Querns and grinding stones were frequently found, and at one spot sixty fine palaeolithic axes of quartzite, 8-10 in. long, were found. The region must at one time have supported a large population, but now not a living animal or plant is to be seen. Unfortunately, the glass could not be traced to any source. Another kind of silica-glass was found in the form of lightning-tubes or fulgurites, made by the fusion of the sand when the dunes were struck by lightning. These are paper-thin tubes 1/8 in. to one inch in diameter and penetrating downwards to the depth of eight feet or more.

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