Did the Britons 100 years ago have different intestinal flora and fauna?

Did the Britons 100 years ago have different intestinal flora and fauna?

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Note: this is not a question about history, but about human digestive system over time :)

I know a lot of colleagues who traveled for business trips to India. All of them caught terrible diarrhea there, in spite of keeping all the rules related to use of reboiled or canned water only, eating only peeled fruits, not eating the street food etc.

My question is: how did the millions (or hundred thousands, I am not sure with the amount) of Britons survived in India during the time of the British Raj 1858-1947?

Did they have to keep the same safety dietary rules as the contemporary Westerners all the time? (I cannot see this as technically possible… )

Were our intestinal flora and fauna different one hundred years ago?

Was the hygiene level and quality of water much lower in Europe then so coming to India was not such a biological shock? (Well, I would believe this in the 1800s but not in the 1900s… )

Or did just some of them die and the rest got accustomed?


I am aware that there is an initial shock for your body when travelling to a very different area generally. However, the Indians (and other Asians) can easily drink the tap water in most of the EU countries and eat the street food, which is not valid vice-versa. So there must be some difference.

Who said they did not have the same problems? I'm sure they did and I'm sure most of them had horrible diarrhea.

A quick google search brought up Man and Microbes: Disease and Plagues in History and Modern Times, by Arno Karlen which states that

In 1817, when the first cholera pandemic began [… ]. In Calcutta and Jessore, cholera killed 5,000 British soldiers within weeks

However, those who survived would get used to it eventually. Cholera is much more serious than simple dysentery of course but its main symptom is also diarrhea.

The locals of wherever you happen to be are used to the pathogens that are common in the drinking water. If I am not from a place and drink water with new pathogens, I will be sick. I will also, however, eventually get over it and my body will be used to them. Depending on the details, either because I have developed an immunity or because I have developed the necessary intestinal fauna to deal with it.

So while the intestinal fauna may indeed have changed over time, this has absolutely nothing to do with what you're asking. First because your assumption is wrong (the British were subjected to the same health issues as modern Europeans visiting Asia) and second because people adapt.

Evolution from a Jewish Perspective, Part 3

Note: Asher (Roland) Norman is an author, attorney and Orthodox Jew, living in California. He also lectures on the subject of &ldquoThe Scientific Case Against Random Macro Evolution (and for Intelligent Design).&rdquo He also lectures on the subject of Jewish holiness, explaining the organizing principle of Jewish holiness in separating between life and death regarding food, (kosher laws) intimacy (family purity laws) and time (Shabbat).

This is Part Three of a three-part series on evolution from a Jewish perspective.

Oncomelania hupensis quadrasi: Snail intermediate host of Schistosoma japonicum in the Philippines

Oncomelania hupensis quadrasi is the snail intermediate host of Schistosoma japonicum in the Philippines. It was discovered by Dr. Marcos Tubangui in 1932 more than two decades after the discovery of the disease in the country in 1906. This review, the first for O. h. quadrasi, presents past and present works on the taxonomy, biology, ecology, control, possible paleogeographic origin of the snail intermediate host and future in research, control and surveillance of the snail. Extensive references are made of other subspecies of O. hupensis such as the subspecies in China for which majority of the advances has been accomplished. Contrasting views on whether the snail is to be considered an independent species of Oncomelania or as one of several subspecies of Oncomelania hupensis are presented. Snail control methods such as chemical methods using synthetic and botanical molluscicides, environmental manipulation and biological control are reviewed. Use of technologies such as Remote Sensing, Geographical Information System and landscape genetics is stressed for snail surveillance. Control and prevention efforts in the Philippines have consistently focused on mass drug administration which has proved inadequate in elimination of the disease. An integrated approach that includes snail control, environmental sanitation and health education has been proposed. Population movement such as migration for employment and economic opportunities and ecotourism and global climate change resulting in heavy rains and flooding challenge the gains of control and elimination efforts. Concern for possible migration of snails to non-endemic areas is expressed given the various changes both natural and mostly man-made favoring habitat expansion.

The bizarre beasts living in Romania's poison cave

In the south-east of Romania, in Constanța county close to the Black Sea and the Bulgarian border, there lies a barren featureless plain. The desolate field is completely unremarkable, except for one thing.

Below it lies a cave that has remained isolated for 5.5 million years. While our ape-like ancestors were coming down from the trees and evolving into modern humans, the inhabitants of this cave were cut off from the rest of the planet.

Despite a complete absence of light and a poisonous atmosphere, the cave is crawling with life. There are unique spiders, scorpions, woodlice and centipedes, many never before seen by humans, and all of them owe their lives to a strange floating mat of bacteria.

In 1986, workers in communist Romania were testing the ground to see if it was suitable for a power plant, when they stumbled across the Movile Cave. Romanian scientist Cristian Lascu was the first to make the dangerous descent.

To enter, you must first be lowered by rope 20m down a narrow shaft dug into the ground

Since then the cave has remained sealed by the Romanian authorities. Fewer than 100 people have been allowed inside Movile, a number comparable to those who have been to the Moon.

This is partly because the journey into the cave is extremely hazardous.

To enter, you must first lower yourself by rope 20m down a narrow shaft dug into the ground. The only light is from your helmet, which bounces around the walls as you descend.

You must then climb down through narrow limestone tunnels coated in an ochre clay, in pitch darkness and temperatures of 25 °C. These paths eventually open out into a central cavern containing a lake.

In 2010, microbiologist Rich Boden, who was then at the University of Warwick in Coventry, UK, became roughly the 29th person to see the cave.

In the lake room, the atmosphere is heavy with harmful gases

"It's pretty warm, and very humid so it feels warmer than it is, and of course with a boiler suit and helmet on that doesn't help," says Boden, who is now at the University of Plymouth in the UK.

"The pool of warm, sulphidic water stinks of rotting eggs or burnt rubber when you disturb it as hydrogen sulphide is given off."

In the lake room, the atmosphere is heavy with harmful gases, principally carbon dioxide as well as the hydrogen sulphide from the water.

The experience is said to be terrifying &ndash and that's even if you don't have a problem with creepy-crawlies

What's more, the air is low in oxygen: it contains just 10% oxygen rather than the usual 20%. Without breathing apparatus, you would soon develop a headache. Visitors can only stay down for 5 or 6 hours before their kidneys pack in.

To explore the rest of the cave, you must dive into the lake and navigate narrow underwater passageways, squeezing through tiny gaps in the rock before emerging into airspaces called air bells.

Doing this in complete darkness is the most dangerous part of exploring the cave. You are far from the surface, so getting stuck or losing your way in the maze of tunnels would be lethal. The experience is said to be terrifying &ndash and that's even if you don't have a problem with creepy-crawlies.

Despite the dark and the dangerous gases, Movile Cave is crawling with life. So far 48 species have been identified, including 33 found nowhere else in the world.

The animals in Movile Cave seem to be without a source of food

There are all sorts of scuttling and slithering things. Snails and shrimps try to avoid the spiders and waterscorpions. In the air bells, leeches swim across the water and prey on earthworms.

Strangely, the worse the air gets the more animals there are. It's not at all obvious why that should be, or how the animals survive at all.

On the surface, plants use sunlight to extract carbon dioxide from the air and turn it into organic compounds. They can then use these chemicals to grow leaves, roots and bulbs. Animals then feed on these plant tissues.

Without sunlight, the animals in Movile Cave seem to be without a source of food.

In most caves, animals get their food from the water dripping down from the surface. This water can often be seen in the form of stalactites and stalagmites.

However, Movile Cave has a thick layer of clay above it, which is impermeable to water. When Lascu first visited, he could not find any stalactites or stalagmites, or any other sign of water coming from the surface.

The water in Movile Cave comes from a deep underground reservoir

The mystery deepened when scientists analysed the water in the cave for radioactive caesium and strontium. The 1986 nuclear accident at Chernobyl had released lots of these metals, which had found their way into the soils and lakes surrounding Movile Cave. However, a 1996 study found no traces of them inside the cave.

That means the water isn't coming from above, so it must be coming from below. It now seems that the water in Movile Cave comes from spongy sandstones where it has lain for 25,000 years.

However, this still doesn't explain how the animals in the cave survive. Tests have shown that the water flowing in does not contain any food particles.

Instead, the food comes from the strange frothy foam sitting on top of the water.

This floating film, which looks like wet tissue paper and can even be torn like paper, contains millions upon millions of bacteria known as "autotrophs".

Sulphuric acid actually erodes the limestone, which is gradually making the cave bigger

"These bacteria get their carbon from carbon dioxide just like plants do," says Boden. "The carbon dioxide level in the cave is about 100 times higher than normal air. But unlike plants, they obviously can't use photosynthesis as there is no light."

Rather than using light as an energy source, the Movile bacteria use a process known as chemosynthesis.

"They get the energy needed&hellip from chemical reactions: the key ones being the oxidation of sulphide and similar sulphur ions into sulphuric acid, or the oxidation of ammonium found in the groundwaters to nitrate," says Boden.

These chemosynthetic bacteria help explain why the cave is so large and the air is so thick with carbon dioxide.

Movile is the only cave whose ecosystem is known to be supported in this way

"Sulphuric acid actually erodes the limestone, which is gradually making the cave bigger," says Boden. "The process releases carbon dioxide, which is why levels are so high."

Another major group of bacteria get their energy and carbon from the methane gas that bubbles up through the waters of the cave. They are called methanotrophs.

Boden describes methanotrophs as "messy eaters" that "constantly leak metabolic intermediates like methanol and formate" into the surrounding water. In turn, these chemicals are food for other species of bacteria.

This may all sound very peculiar, and in some ways it is. Movile is the only cave whose ecosystem is known to be supported in this way, and the only such ecosystem on land.

The Movile bacteria are very similar to bacteria found elsewhere

But according to microbiologist J. Colin Murrell of the University of East Anglia in Norwich, UK, the bacteria in Movile Cave are remarkably simple and not at all unusual.

"The bacteria get all of their carbon from just one source, be it methane or carbon dioxide," says Murrell. "That means that all of the components of their cells, be it the DNA in their nucleus, the lipids in their cell membrane and the proteins in their enzymes, are made from the same simple ingredient."

The Movile bacteria are also very similar to bacteria found elsewhere, despite having being trapped in the cave for over 5 million years.

"Methanotrophs are everywhere: the Roman Baths at Bath, the surface of seawater, the mouths of cattle and probably the human mouth and gut," says Boden. "Autotrophic bacteria of the same types we found at Movile are found in almost all soils and on the surface of the skin."

The same cannot be said for the animals of the cave. Millions of years of isolation has transformed them.

Many are born without eyes, which would be useless in the dark. Almost all are translucent as they have lost pigment in their skin. Many also have extra-long appendages such as antennae to help them feel their way around in the darkness.

One of the spiders was closely related to a spider found in the Canary Islands &ndash which lie over 4000km to the west

There are no flies in Movile Cave, but the spiders still spin webs. Small insects called springtails bounce into the air and get caught in the webs.

In 1996, researchers categorised the animals in the cave. They included 3 species of spider, a centipede, 4 species of isopod (the group that includes woodlice), a leech never seen anywhere else in the world, and an unusual-looking insect called a waterscorpion.

Strangely, one of the spiders was closely related to a spider found in the Canary Islands &ndash which lie over 4000km to the west, off the north-west coast of Africa.

That raises the question, how and why did the animals get into the cave?

One theory is that back at the end of the Miocene Epoch, about 5.5 million years ago, the climate of the northern hemisphere changed. As Africa moved north it stopped the Atlantic from flowing into the Mediterranean Sea, drying it out.

It's very likely that the bacteria have been there a lot longer than five million years

This could have forced the animals to seek refuge in the sulphurous underworld of Movile Cave. It would have been a haven, with thermal waters providing constant warmth, no competitors or predators, and a rich source of food.

The problem with this theory is that it is difficult to prove.

"It's very likely that the bacteria have been there a lot longer than five million years, but that the insects became trapped there around that time," says Murrell. "They could have simply fallen in and become trapped when the limestone cast dropped, sealing the cave until it was discovered again in 1986."

It may be that different animals arrived at different times. A 2008 study of Movile's only snail suggested that it has been down there for just over 2 million years. When it entered the cave, the ice age was just beginning, and the snail may have escaped the cold by going underground.

However they got there, it seems that Movile's inhabitants are now trapped for good. We could learn a lot from them.

It could be that the first living cells were similar to those found in Movile Cave

The bacteria's ability to oxidise methane and carbon dioxide is of particular interest. These two greenhouse gases are the biggest culprits for global warming, so researchers are desperate to find efficient ways to remove them from the atmosphere.

The Movile Cave microbes could also offer hints about how the first life formed on Earth. They are genetically similar to those found in geothermal vents, which are also rich in carbon dioxide, sulphides and ammonia.

The conditions in both places may well be similar to the primordial Earth. In our world's early years, the Sun's light was obscured by an atmosphere thick with carbon dioxide, methane and ammonia. It could be that the first living cells were similar to those found in Movile Cave.

Almost 30 years after its discovery, Movile Cave remains perhaps the most isolated ecosystem on the planet. It surely has many more secrets to give up. There are plenty more organisms buried in the cave's sediments, waiting to be identified, and they could help us understand some of our deepest questions about the nature of life.

That Parasites Can Hitchhike Around the World in Ships

In the last decade, we’ve discovered that parasites move around the world’s oceans faster and in far larger numbers than we thought. Commercial shipping is the main way goods move from place to place, transporting millions of metric tons of cargo a year. In two studies published in 2016 and 2017, my colleagues and I used DNA-based methods to search for parasites in ballast water (the water that ships take on board and hold in special tanks for balance). We’ve discovered that ballast tanks are full of parasites known to infect many different marine organisms. In our 2017 study, we found some parasite species in all of our samples, from ships docking in ports on the East, West and Gulf Coasts of the U.S. This signals a huge potential for parasite invasions. Knowing these ships are unwittingly ferrying parasites means we can act to limit the future spread of parasites and the diseases they cause. —Katrina Lohan, marine disease ecology laboratory, Smithsonian Environmental Research Center

Biology 105

Permineralization and replacement happens
when structures buried in
sediment are replaced with minerals.

Even cellular level detail is possible.

The Burgess Shale Fauna in
British Columbia

• There is a normal background extinction rate that is given as the probability that a lineage will die out

• Dust clouds caused by the impact would have blocked sunlight and disturbed global climate

• The Chicxulub crater off the coast of Mexico is evidence of a meteorite that dates to the same time

• High levels of Iridium, rare on Earth

• Shocked quartz from extreme heat and pressure

• Thought to be caused by runaway greenhouse conditions and low oxygen levels and environmental instability

• Body size of organisms was smaller

• 96% of all marine species and 70% of all terrestrial
species went extinct

• Data suggest that a sixth, human-caused mass extinction is likely to occur unless dramatic action is taken

• Oceans and coral reefs (25% are already gone, almost 90% of marine organisms rely on them at some point in life)

• Many other biomes are in danger too

• Targeting specific species (shark fins, trophies, traditional medicine, pet trade)

• Increased meat production and consumption

• Only in Europe there is some evidence, but mainly
because humans probably didn't cause it

• The stress of climate change probably made populations smaller and more stressed

• Humans were efficient and may have encountered many naïve prey

• By 1990, over 500 insect species had evolved resistance
to at least one type of insecticide

• When drugs are only used singly (one at a time), they can
quickly become ineffective

• Changing the life histories of organisms

• When environmental conditions lead to shorter life, individuals reproduce younger

ELife digest

The ecosystems found across the Earth, including in forests, lakes and prairies, consist of communities of plants, animals and microbes. How these organisms interact with each other determines which ones grow and thrive. We still do not understand how communities form: why different species exist where they do, and what enables them to survive in different locations. This knowledge is particularly limited with regard to communities of microbes because they are hard to see and count.

Pitcher plants are an ideal system for studying how communities and ecosystems assemble. The pitcher-shaped leaves of these plants each contain small aquatic communities of microbes and arthropods (including insects and mites) that can be relatively easily studied. Because unrelated groups of plants have evolved pitchers at different times and on different continents, these communities can also be used to explore how evolutionary history and the current environment determine which species thrive in a particular location.

Bittleston et al. sampled the DNA of the communities living within 330 pitchers from various North American and Southeast Asian pitcher plant species. This revealed that very distantly related plants on opposite sides of the planet have pitchers that host similar communities, with the organisms found in one pitcher plant often closely related to the organisms found in others. The genes within the community’s DNA also shared many functions, with the majority of shared genes devoted to digesting captured insect prey. Bittleston et al. also relocated pitcher plants from Southeast Asia to grow alongside North American species and found the same microbes and arthropods colonizing both groups, indicating that the different types of pitchers present a similar habitat.

Overall, the results of the experiments performed by Bittleston et al. suggest that certain kinds of interactions between species (such as between the pitcher plants and their microbes) can evolve independently in different parts of the world. Researchers can use these interactions to learn more about how communities and ecosystems form. With a greater understanding of the Earth’s ecosystems, it will be easier to protect them and predict how they will fare as global conditions change.

Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.


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New study reignites debate over Viking settlements in England

The Vikings plundered, raided, and eventually reigned over a large part of what is modern day England. But exactly how many Danish Vikings migrated west and settled down in the British Isles?

In 2015, a large DNA study sparked a row between DNA scientists and archaeologists after concluding that the Danish Vikings had a &ldquorelatively limited&rdquo influence on the British&mdasha direct contradiction to archaeological remains and historical documents.

&ldquoWe see no clear genetic evidence of the Danish Viking occupation and control of a large part of England,&rdquo write DNA scientists in a study published in the scientific journal Nature in 2015.

A new study has reignited the debate by claiming that somewhere between 20,000 and 35,000 Vikings relocated to England.

Archaeologists: DNA scientists have made a mistake

The Danelaw

The Danelaw was an area of north and east England.

The first reference to The Danelaw was a written source from the 11th century.

It describes the areas of England under Danish rule from the late 800s.

More broadly, it includes areas influenced by Scandinavian Vikings.

&ldquoWe don&rsquot think that the Nature study analysis of the Danish Vikings is correct. We think that they incorrectly interpret the DNA material and that they don&rsquot take into account all of the archaeological discoveries and the knowledge that historians and archaeologists have gathered concerning the Danish Vikings in England,&rdquo says co-author Jane Kershaw, an archaeologist and Viking researcher Jane Kershaw, a post doc at the University College London.

The new study is published in the archaeological journal Antiquity.

In it, Kershaw and her colleague argue that evidence collected from language studies, written sources, and archaeological discoveries indicate a &ldquolarge-scale Danish Viking presence in England,&rdquo says Kershaw.

&ldquoIt all fits together beautifully&rdquo

The new result is pretty much what Viking researcher Søren Sindbæk, a professor at the School of Culture and Society from Aarhus University, Denmark, had expected.

&ldquoIt&rsquos very interesting because it gives a very precise estimate of how many Vikings that moved to England. Both their analysis of the genetic material and archaeological remains indicate that the Danish Vikings had quite a significant influence,&rdquo says Sindbæk.

&ldquoIt all fits together beautifully and I&rsquom in total agreement with their critique of the original DNA study conclusions about the Vikings,&rdquo he says.

Sindbæk was not involved in either of the two studies, but has closely followed the debate about the influence of Vikings in England.

&ldquo20,000 to 35,000 Vikings moving to England might not sound like much to us. But remember that this was before flying, cellphones, and GPS. In the Viking times it was quite a significant migration,&rdquo says Sindbæk.

Explore the time-line above to follow the Danish Viking travels to England (Graphic: Mette Friis-Mikkelsen / ScienceNordic)

A long running debate

Archaeologists and historians have debated the numbers for decades with no consensus, writes Viking researcher and archaeologist Steve Ashby from the University of York in an email to ScienceNordic.

But more recent archaeological discoveries convinced many researchers that a large-scale resettlement took place, he writes. He was not involved in the new study.

&ldquoRecently we&rsquove started to believe that the settlement was towards the larger end of the estimates that have been made, and the suggestion of between 20,000 and 35,000 settlers is in line with this,&rdquo writes Ashby.

Did the Vikings take their wives to England?

Language research and historical records confirm a large-scale immigration, says Sindbæk.

&ldquoThe English language is testament to a massive influx of Scandinavians. One of the most important written sources&mdashthe famous Domesday Book from the end of the 11th century&mdashrecords the owners of almost all farms in England. In the records, you can see that a part of the population in a large part of England has Scandinavian names or names that aren&rsquot traditionally seen as English but that we encounter in Denmark,&rdquo he says.

&ldquoA lot of place names in England have Scandinavian &ndashspecifically Danish- origins. And we&rsquore not just talking about large towns or places. Fields, hedges, small streams, and other rural landscape features have Scandinavian names, suggesting that they were named by a Norse-speaking population, living in the countryside and working the land,&rdquo she says, adding that she has spent &ldquomy academic career to date arguing that thousands of Vikings settled in England.&rdquo

Archaeologist "shocked" by the DNA

Kershaw was shocked when she read in British media that a new DNA study showed that Danish Vikings had very little influence on British genetics.

&ldquoWhen I first read the Nature study I was a little shocked. I thought, &ldquoNo, it simply doesn&rsquot fit.&rdquo All of my own research is based on completely the opposite argument that there were a lot of Vikings&mdashboth men and women-- that settled in England,&rdquo says Kershaw.

She immediately called her friend Ellen Røyrvik, a geneticist at the University of Warwick, UK, who was one of the co-authors on the 2015 study.

&ldquoEllen explained that, in her opinion, there were many problems with the study&rsquos interpretation of the DNA data concerning the Danish Vikings. This ended up being the reason why we collaborated to write a response, which is the study that&rsquos just been published in Antiquity,&rdquo says Kershaw.

The original DNA study in Nature provides a genetic map of the British population and both Kershaw and Røyrvik stress that their criticism does not apply to the whole study&mdashonly to the conclusions that relates to the Danish Vikings.

&ldquoThe data are excellent, I just feel the interpretation is too simplistic,&rdquo says Røyrvik.

DNA scientists confident in interpretation of Viking DNA

The Nature study concluded 20 per cent of the British DNA comes from the Anglo-Saxons who had come from Germany and invaded England in the 5th and 6th centuries. The study concluded that they largely mixed with the existing population.

They concluded that it was difficult to isolate the influence of the Danish Vikings just by looking at the DNA material.

&ldquoWe&rsquore quite confident that the Danish Vikings didn't leave much DNA in the UK population,&rdquo says Peter Donnelly, lead-author on the Nature study and director of the People of the British Isles project, which supplied the genetic data for the Nature study.

Studied modern European DNA

In the study, Donnelly and his colleagues compared genetic material of the contemporary British population with genetic material from current populations in other parts of Europe.

&ldquoOne of the reasons why we say we don&rsquot see a clear signal from the Danish Vikings is that we know that the Danish Vikings occupied certain parts of Britain. They controlled a large area, which was known as the Danelaw for more than 100 years. So if the Vikings had left behind significant traces of DNA, we would expect to see them in these areas and not in all areas of the UK. But that's not the case,&rdquo says Donnelly.

His co-author, Røyrvik, disagrees.

&ldquoI don&rsquot agree that Danish Viking DNA should be limited to certain areas,&rdquo says Røyrvik.

&ldquoPeople have moved around since the Viking Age and people have had children with people in different areas. So the idea that Viking DNA is just limited to one or two areas in England doesn&rsquot really make sense to me. The DNA study shows itself that there&rsquos been lots of mixing in the lowlands of England, so it would be strange if the DNA was limited to the Danelaw,&rdquo she says.

Scientists disagree on how to identify Danish Viking DNA

Their mistake, according to Røyrvik, is the way in which they differentiate between the Anglo-Saxon and Danish Viking DNA. A part of the genetic input that they describe as Anglo-Saxon actually probably has a Danish origin, she says.

&ldquoI think that the population that they think reflects Anglo-Saxons, also includes Danish Vikings. The arguments that they use to establish that it doesn&rsquot apply to Danish Vikings don&rsquot hold up,&rdquo says Røyrvik.

She points out that the Anglo-Saxons invaded England in the 5th century, but they originally came from northern Germany, close to Jutland in West Denmark, where the Vikings later prospered.

&ldquoIt&rsquos difficult to separate Danish Vikings and Anglo-Saxons genetically because these populations lived so close together. And at the same time, the Vikings arrived in England relatively soon after the Anglo-Saxons. This leads to extra uncertainty and it means that you can&rsquot separate the two,&rdquo says Røyrvik.

&ldquoImpossible&rdquo to separate Anglo-Saxon and Viking DNA

Donnelly was aware of the uncertainties surrounding this separation of Danish Vikings and the Anglo-Saxons when the study was originally published.

&ldquoDefinitively separating Saxon and Danish Viking [genetic] inputs is impossible,&rdquo they write in the supplementary material accompanying the study.

But they still write that &ldquowe thus think it likely&rdquo that Danish Vikings only left limited traces of their DNA in the modern British population because &ldquowe see no remnant of the Danelaw, in terms of a distinct genetic cluster within the UK.&rdquo

&ldquoIt&rsquos true that we cannot exclude that the Vikings&rsquo descendants have moved around so much that we can no longer see the signal from the Vikings in certain areas. But they should have moved around a lot for such a genetic signal to be erased. And we quite clearly see the genetic signals from other events that took place thousands of years before the Vikings came to England.&rdquo

&ldquoBut of course no one can say anything definitive. We&rsquore trying to reconstruct events that happened over 1,000 years ago based on modern human DNA,&rdquo says Donnelly.

Danish DNA from Copenhagen hospital patients

The modern Danish DNA comparison was made using DNA samples from hospital patients in Copenhagen. But these may not have been the best choice to represent Danish Vikings, says Røyrvik.

&ldquoIn mapping the British DNA, we went to great lengths to select the participants. For example, you could only take part if you had four grandparents that all came from the same small area of Britain. But we couldn&rsquot apply the same high standards to the DNA material that we got from all the other countries,&rdquo she says.

&ldquoThe material from Denmark only came from Copenhagen and perhaps it&rsquos not the best representation of Vikings, geographically speaking. We don&rsquot know if some of the patients were immigrants to Denmark from other countries or if their grandparents were foreign,&rdquo she says.

Discussion shouldn&rsquot overshadow an impressive study

She points out that she opposed the conclusions about the Danish Vikings before the study was published.

&ldquoBut there were a lot of authors on the Nature study, and you don&rsquot always get all the details as you&rsquod like,&rdquo says Røyrvik. &ldquoBut I want to emphasise that I agree with most of the findings in the study--just not when it comes to the interpretation of data on the Danish Vikings. The data in this study are excellent, but it lacks in the interpretation and understanding of the Vikings.&rdquo

DNA scientist Professor Rasmus Nielsen, from the Center for Theoretical Evolutionary Genomics at the University of California, Berkeley, USA, has read both the Nature study and the criticisms in the new Antiquity study.

He emphasises that the Nature study methodology is both ground-breaking and innovative, but:

&ldquoIn relation to the part of the conclusions that relate to the Danish Vikings, I agree that they have probably pushed the interpretation of their results a bit further than what the data can support,&rdquo says Nielsen.

&ldquoBut I hope that this doesn&rsquot overshadow that technically speaking, it&rsquos a very impressive study,&rdquo he says.

Do the two studies contradict each other entirely?

Donnelly suggests that there&rsquos not a big difference between the findings of the two studies.

His study does not put a figure on the number of Vikings that came to England. They simply report a &ldquorelatively limited input of DNA from the Danish Vikings.&rdquo

&ldquoI'm not sure that we contradict each other--it's all just a matter of numbers,&rdquo he says. &ldquoEven if 25,000 Danish Vikings moved to England in the period, they would still only represent a small share of the total UK population. For example, if the British population back then was 500,000 people in the areas that the Vikings occupied, then the Danish Vikings would still only account for five percent of the population,&rdquo says Donelly.

&ldquoSo it's not so surprising that we do not see any clear genetic signal from them more than 1,000 years later,&rdquo he says.

There is Danish DNA in the UK

&ldquoWe&rsquore not saying that there is no DNA from the Danish Vikings in the British population--we just say that the Danish Vikings have not left a significant signal. Anglo-Saxons left a clear DNA signal, but the Vikings did not,&rdquo says Donelly.

&ldquoBut we also see no signal from the Normans for example, even though they invaded and took over the UK. They didn't have enough children with the locals to leave a clear genetic signal today. The only migration to Britain since the time of Christ, that has left a clear genetic signal, is from the Anglo-Saxons,&rdquo he says.

Røyrvik maintains that the Nature study misinterprets the data.

&ldquoBased on the analysis in the Nature study, I don&rsquot think that we can say that Ango-Saxons have had a significant impact on modern British DNA, and that Danish Viking have not,&rdquo she says.

Vikings were hugely influential

We will probably never know how many people moved from Viking Denmark to England. And even if the Danish Vikings did not leave a significant genetic imprint, they certainly left a cultural impact, writes Ashby.

&ldquoThe question of the numbers of Scandinavian settlers in England has rattled on for decades, without any real solution.&rdquo

&ldquoTo be honest, I don't find counting the number of settlers to be a very interesting question in itself. What is clear is that however many there were, Scandinavian settlers had a huge impact on the society and culture of what was to become England,&rdquo he writes.


The University of Michigan Museum of Zoology (UMMZ) is the center for the study of animal diversity on campus, focusing on the evolutionary origins of the planet’s animal species, the genetic information they contain and the communities and ecosystems they help form. Now an integral part of the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (EEB), the UMMZ houses world-class collections that span almost 200 years of regional and global biodiversity studies and that support a multi-faceted Departmental research and teaching program. The following is a brief history compiled from available records and from discussions with senior Curators, including Emeriti.

Beginnings 1837-1913

The UMMZ’s collections date to the foundation of the state of Michigan. During the 1837 initial session of the Michigan legislature, a State Geological Survey was authorized, designed to include information not only about the geological features of the region, but also an inventory of its flora, fauna, and fossils. To house the inventoried specimens, the establishment of a Cabinet of Natural History in the University of Michigan (UM) was authorized. The university had been founded in Detroit in 1817, but moved to Ann Arbor in 1837.

Dr. Abram Sager headed the Botanical and Zoological Departments of the State Geological Survey and in 1839 he authored a segment of the 2nd Geological Survey report entitled: A Systematic Catalogue of the Animals of the State, so far as Observed listing the various species of animals encountered, especially birds. Sager’s specimens formed the initial nucleus of the UMMZ’s collections and the museum retains 22 of his birds specimens, many of them in good condition, e.g., see the Buteo lagopos (Rough-Legged Hawk) specimen and associated label in Fig. 1.

In 1837, when the UM was in the process of relocating to Ann Arbor, Asa Gray was appointed Professor of Botany and Zoology. He was initially engaged in a book-buying tour of Europe for the future University Library and spent relatively little time in Ann Arbor prior to resigning to take a position at Harvard in 1842, where he enjoyed a distinguished botanical career, including active collaboration with Charles Darwin. Dr. Abram Sager was appointed as Gray’s replacement (Professor of Zoology and Botany) in 1842 and continued in this role until transferring to the newly organized UM Medical Department in 1850.

From the very beginning, the natural history cabinet specimens, located in Mason Hall, played a central instructional role on the Ann Arbor campus. The first classes in Zoology consisted of lectures supplemented with demonstrations of cabinet specimens, many collected by Sager himself. A taxidermist was hired, on a piecework basis, to take care of the specimens and by 1850 the cabinet consisted of up to 5,000 Michigan geological, zoological and botanical specimens. In 1855, Alexander Winchell was appointed Professor of Geology, Zoology, and Botany and he led an expansion of the scope of the zoological curriculum and of the associated teaching collection, extending it well beyond the Michigan fauna, e.g., the acquisition of the Trowbridge Collection of Pacific Coast species from the Smithsonian Institution in 1858. Transforming the ‘cabinet” into the Museum of Natural History, Winchell hired Carl Rominger, M.D., as Assistant Curator, paleontologist and taxidermist in 1863. By 1867, the zoological collection had up to 16,000 specimens. Winchell resigned in 1873 and had two short-term replacements in Eugene Hilgard (1873-75) and Mark Harrington (1875-76).

Prior to the 1870s, the natural history collections at the University of Michigan were primarily national in scope. This changed dramatically when the University hired Joseph Beal Steere to lead a 5-year circumglobal expedition (1870-1875) to collect materials in the natural and human sciences for the Museum. Upon his return, Steere was appointed Assistant Professor of Paleontology and Curator of the Museum in 1876, serving in the latter capacity until 1894. The Steere Zoological Collection alone totaled 60,000 specimens, including 25,000 insects, 1,500 mollusks and 8,000 birds. Steere was particularly interested in birds and made historically important collections in the Amazon, Peru, Malaysia, Taiwan, Celebes, and the Philippines. He was the first naturalist to collect in many of these places, especially the Philippines, and his bird collections contained more than 50 species new to science.

The flood of new collection material resulted in a severe space crunch that led to many collection specimens being housed in less than ideal locations such as attics. This was recognized as a major issue by the UM administration: the 1878 President’s report noted the unacceptable fire risk posed to “our rare and extensive scientific collections”. It spurred the funding and construction of a new purpose-built University Museum Building (Fig. 3) in 1879-80. The natural history collections migrated to their new home in the fall of 1880.

In 1879, Zoology was separated from both botany and paleontology, Steere becoming a Professor of Zoology and Curator of the Museum. Coincident with the museum building construction, the Board of Regents approved a new set of operating rules stating that professors in charge of instruction in the various fields of natural history be “the curators of the corresponding collections in the Museum of Natural History”. One long-term problem with this decentralized arrangement was the uneven development of the collections, reflecting the individual interests of faculty, the Zoological collections outpacing the others in growth. Jacob Reighard joined the faculty in 1886 and instruction in Zoology was partitioned into General Zoology, taught by Steere, and Animal Morphology given by Reighard. This was followed by the formal redesignation of Steere as Professor of Systematic Zoology and Reighard as Professor of Animal Morphology. Steere resigned in 1894, and Jacob Reighard was appointed Professor of Zoology and Director of the Zoological Laboratory and Museum.

Reighard continued as head of the Department of Zoology until 1925. During this time, the biological sciences faculty at the UM underwent major expansion and differentiation, associated in part with 1913 vote of the state legislature funding the construction of the present Natural Science Building (Kraus). In 1915, the Zoology Department moved into the new building where it occupied approximately one-fourth of the space. A large number of new zoology faculty were recruited, spanning many emerging fields of research and teaching, including evolution, ecology, genetics, physiology and development. This recruiting pulse also impacted the Museum in the form of three hires: Herbert Sargent (1898), Charles C. Adams (1903) who was recruited to be Curator in charge of the Museum by Reighard, and Alexander G. Ruthven (1906). These museum positions initially lacked teaching duties, but Adams and Ruthven sought and obtained instructorship in the Department and both individuals were instrumental in thedevelopment and flourishing of the future UMMZ.

C.C. Adams was a pioneering natural historian and field ecologist who initiated a series of extensive faunal and ecological surveys of the state that emphasized the importance of large sample sizes and detailed field data to addressing scientific questions. Ruthven was Adam’s Ph.D. student and became deeply interested in ecology and geographic distribution and adaptation, particularly of reptiles. In 1906, upon his graduation, Ruthven became Adam’s successor as Curator of the University Museum, a position of leadership he held for 23 years.

1913-1956 Independence, Relocation & Development

To Ruthven, museum collections and data were one of the essential tools for understanding evolution as well as for constructing meaningful systematic relationships and taxonomies. A visionary scientist and administrator, he was of the opinion that museums should push in new directions to reflect changes in biological disciplines. He was given that opportunity in 1913 when the disproportionate growth of the zoological collections prompted the Regents to formally recognize the Museum of Zoology as a separate administration with Ruthven as Director. From 1913-1956, the UMMZ reported to either the Board of Regents or the President of the University through its director or a museums operating committee.

In addition to Ruthven, the full time scientific staff of the newly recognized UMMZ included A. Wood, Curator of Birds, Crystal Thompson, Scientific Assistant in Charge of Fish and Invertebrates, and Helen Thompson, Scientific Assistant in Charge of Amphibians and Reptiles. Over the next 8 years, Ruthven supervised the complete transformation of the museum. The Section of Botany was transferred to the newly formed University Herbarium and a dynamic and far-reaching recruitment process formed the UMMZ into six major divisions, each with at least one full-time curator: Mammals (Lee Dice), Birds (A. Wood), Reptiles and Amphibians (Ruthven, Helen Gaige), Fishes (Carl Hubbs), Insects (Frederick Gaige) and Mollusks (Mina Winslow). From a modern perspective, it is notable that >100 years ago two of the seven UMMZ curators were female.

Ruthven was also highly adept at outreach and under his leadership the Museum of Zoology attracted a large and active group of influential amateur naturalists. Informally known as the Detroit Naturalists Club grouping, they participated in multiple aspects of the Museum program. Some members, such as Bryant Walker, E. B. Williamson, and William W. Newcomb, became nationally recognized authorities for specific taxonomic groups as well as honorary curators of the museum. A number were significant benefactors of the Museum of Zoology, supporting the establishment of the UMMZ publications series (Occasional Papers & Miscellaneous Publications), financing numerous national (especially regional) and international (especially Neotropical) expeditions, and purchasing or donating important collections (e.g., B. Walker’s donation of his 100,000-lot private mollusk collection and 1,500-volume library). Indeed, a number of the UMMZ’s most important extant endowments (e.g., the Ammermann, Fargo and Swales funds) stem from the generosity of long departed Detroit Naturalists Club members.

The net effect of all this new activity was rapid expansion of the UMMZ’s collections and of the program’s academic output. The intensive investigation of Michigan's fauna initiated under C.C. Adams continued with more emphasis on ecological relationships and biogeography. Targeted field expeditions were mounted all across the U.S. as well as into South America, Central America and Mexico. By 1920, the old Museum Building was outgrown and an overflow into the Natural Science Building (for fishes, Hubbs was a very prolific collector), the Old Medical Building and a succession of frame houses acquired by the University. In 1925, the legislature appropriated funds for a University Museums Building. It was designed by the famous Detroit architect Albert Kahn, but Ruthven was centrally involved in the planning process. Finished in 1928 (Fig. 5), the new building was an innovative and exemplary early 20th century research university museum complex. It included space for the University Herbarium, the Museum of Anthropology, the Museum of Paleontology, and a Section of Exhibits, as well as for the Museum of Zoology.

The new building brought administrative changes: Ruthven was appointed to the newly created post of Director of University Museums and Frederick Gaige was made Assistant Director of the Museum of Zoology. Ruthven’s appointment was short lived, being recruited in 1929 to the presidency of the University with Gaige becoming Director, a position he held until 1945. Another important development from this time period was the gifting of the Edwin S. George Reserve to the University in 1930. Situated just 25km from Ann Arbor, this tractable venue for ecological research and teaching was placed under UMMZ administration (see Appendix I on p. 17-18 for a brief ESGR history).

Although Gaige’s directorship coincided with the Great Depression and World War II, the UMMZ’s collections and academic program continued its growth and development, with a high-quality training program that in many cases produced the next generation of curators both at the UMMZ itself and at peer museums across the country. Hubbs, in particular, proved to be a research and curatorial dynamo. He was interested in systematics, zoogeography, development and the importance of hybridization in fish evolution. By the time he left the UMMZ in 1944, it had become the leading ichthyological center in North America, training >40 Ph.D.s and growing the collection from 5,000 to almost 2,100,000 specimens. Hubbs was succeeded by his former student Reeve Bailey (in 1944). Josselyn Van Tyne was appointed Curator of Birds in 1931 and initiated an era of tremendous growth both in the collections and in ornithology program. He and his students concentrated on life history and anatomical studies of birds and he negotiated the acquisition of major private collections and the establishment of an outstanding ornithological library. In the Mammal Division, Lee Dice specialized in mammalian genetics but in 1934 became Director of the Laboratory of Vertebrate Genetics, relinquishing his curatorship in 1938. William Burt, a behavioral ecologist, became Curator of Mammals in 1938 and was joined that year by Assistant Curator Emmett Hooper, a specialist in Mexican mammal diversity. Once Ruthven became President, Helen Gaige assumed effective day-to-day responsibility for the Division of Herpetology. The UMMZ research and training program in reptiles and amphibians had become highly regarded, attracting many leading students including some who would subsequently be recruited as Divisional curators, e.g., Norman Hartweg in 1934 and Charles Walker in 1947. Mina Winslow was Curator of Mollusks and engaged in regional and international (including South Africa) collecting trips prior to her resignation in 1929. She was replaced by one of the honorary mollusk curators, Calvin Goodrich, a specialist in North American pleurocerid snails who sampled extensively in southern U.S. drainages prior to their 1930’s industrialization. In 1934, UMMZ graduate Henry van der Schalie was made Assistant Curator, becoming Curator upon Goodrich's retirement in 1944. Van der Schalie established a prominent research and teaching program in snail-borne diseases and in mollusk biodiversity. Frederick Gaige’s research specialization concerned Neotropical ants, but his research output was impacted by Directorial demands. Insect Division functioning was significantly enhanced during this period by the activities of multiple honorary curators who took on responsibility for major insect groups and added significantly to the collection. Two of these honorary curators, J. Speed Rodgers (Diptera) and T.H. Hubbell (Orthoptera), were UMMZ graduates who had obtained positions at the University of Florida.

At the cessation of World War II, the UMMZ experienced an abrupt and significant loss of personnel. Frederick Gaige retired from the Directorship and from his Curatorship of Insects and his spouse Helen Gage retired from her Curatorship of Herpetology. These two individuals had played very significant roles in the UMMZ program for many years and their loss was keenly felt. The UMMZ turned toward its former students to fill these and other gaps. J. Speed Rogers was appointed Museum Director and T.H. Hubbell as the Curator of Insects. This pattern of predominantly hiring former UMMZ students continued during the ten years of Rodgers’ Directorship, e.g., Charles Walker as Curator of Herpetology in 1947 and Robert Miller as Curator of Fishes in 1948. Exceptions were the hiring in 1947 of William Gosline, an ichthyologist from Stanford University, and of Robert Storer in 1948, an ornithologist from U.C. Berkeley. During this time, the UMMZ collections continued to grow significantly in scope, as did the graduate training program.

1956-2011 No longer an Island

Rodgers died unexpectedly in 1955 and was succeeded in the UMMZ Directorship by T.H. Hubbell, who served in this role until his retirement in 1968. The Hubbell Directorship involved very significant UMMZ reorganization and development. Teaching and research programs were broadened, ties with the zoology department were strengthened, systematic biology came to prominence in the curriculum, and a research wing was added to the museum with monies from the National Science Foundation.

A long-standing issue faced by the UMMZ and its sister museums concerned teaching participation. Since 1928, these were essentially ad-hoc voluntary associations with salient teaching departments (the Zoology Department in the case of the UMMZ). In practice, teaching participation varied widely among the museums and even among individual curators with specific museums. To regularize this situation, the UMMZ, was redesignated as a department of the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, i.e., reporting to the Dean of LSA, not to the UM President or Regents. UMMZ curators, in addition to retaining their research and curatorial functions in the Museum, entered into a greatly expanded role in the undergraduate and graduate teaching program. Starting at this time, half of the academic-year (9-month) appointments of the curators, evaluations of teaching effort, and (most saliently) the designation of tenure were transferred to the Department of Zoology. Partial independence of the UMMZ was maintained by the retention of and 0.5 positions as well as a separate budget and director. However, the long-term fate and direction of the UMMZ was now inextricably tied to its academic Department.

Five new curatorial appointments, including 2 future Directors, were made during Hubbell’s leadership. Their collective addition greatly expanded the types of research questions and approaches used within the UMMZ as well as renewing the teaching and training aspects of the program. They included Insect Curator Thomas Moore (in 1956), a specialist in cicadas, and Bird Curator and former UMMZ student Harrison Tordoff (in 1957). Tordoff studied Fringillidae systematics and crossbill genetics but left in 1970 to join the Bell Museum at the Univesity of Minnesota. Richard Alexander was recruited as Curator of Insects in 1957 and has had a stellar academic career at the UMMZ, receiving numerous prestigious awards including a Daniel Giraud Eliot Medal from the National Academy of Sciences in 1971 and being elected to that body in 1974. Alexander has very broad interests in animal behavior and evolution. His early insect research focused on acoustic communication, speciation and life history evolution. His later work addressed many central areas in evolutionary biology and attracted numerous graduate students, many of whom went on to have very successful scientific careers. In 1963, UMMZ graduate John B. Burch was appointed Curator of Mollusks. He developed an international research program on non-marine gastropods with an emphasis on species of medical importance and Pacific Island endemics as well as on karyological and immunotaxonomic characterization. Burch also founded a number of influential mollusk journals, most notably Malacologia, and currently serves as the UMMZ Publications Editor. Two new Herpetology faculty were hired in the mid-1960s. Donald Tinkle was recruited from Texas Tech University in 1965 as a Curator of Amphibians and Reptiles. He was a prominent pioneer in using long-term field experiments to study the life history of reptiles. In 1980, Tinkle was awarded the Eminent Ecologist Award of the Ecological Society of America, but died that year from pancreatic cancer. Arnold Kluge was hired as a faculty member in the Department of Zoology in 1965. That year, he was also given a Research Associate position in the UMMZ, this being upgraded to Curator of Amphibians and Reptiles in 1967. Kluge’s interests include phylogenetic inference and, together with UM botanist Herb Wagner and others at the UM, he played an important role in the development of cladistics, being a founding member of the Willi Hennig Society.

Hubbell applied to the National Science Foundation in 1961 for major funding to construct “a national facility for research in animal biosystematics”. Thanks in part to the influential assistance of former curator Carl Hubbs, Hubbell was successful and this enabled the construction of the UMMZ’s “New Wing”, opened in 1964. This development significantly expanded the UMMZ footprint, allowing for significant new lab, live animal facility, office and library space that was soon fully occupied. In 1967, the UMMZ hosted a large international symposium on Systematic Biology, sponsored by the National Research Council. The results were published in a 1969 volume by the National Academy of Sciences. The UMMZ was also active in international outreach. Most notably, Hubbell was instrumental in the 1963 formation of the inter-university Organization for Tropical Studies in Costa Rica with UMMZ curator Hartweg as its first President.

Nelson Hairston served as UMMZ Director from 1968-1975. He was appointed by LSA and differed from his predecessors in that he was a faculty member in the Department of Zoology rather than a UMMZ Curator. Hairston was a well-regarded ecologist who performed much of his fieldwork at the Edwin S. George Reserve, administered by the UMMZ. During his period of leadership, three new curators were recruited. Gerald Smith, a former UMMZ student, was appointed in 1969 as Curator in both the UMMZ (Fishes) and in the UM Museum of Paleontology, and Assistant Professor in the corresponding departments: Zoology and Geology. Smith works with both extant and extinct fishes, especially in Western drainages and is particularly interested in rates of evolution and introgression. Before his retirement, Smith had the unique distinction of serving as director of three UM Museums: Paleontology (1975-1981), Zoology (1998-2002) and Herbarium (1999-2002). Robert Payne was appointed Curator of Birds in 1970 (replacing Tordoff). His primary research interest is bird social behavior and systematics, with an emphasis on brood parasites and their hosts, especially African species. This has involved both fieldwork in Africa and experimental behavior research with captive specimens at the UMMZ and has outlined a new rapid speciation mechanism caused by host switching associated with host song imprinting. Payne added large numbers of bird vocalization recordings as well as specimens to the UMMZ bird collection. Ronald Nussbaum was hired as Curator of Amphibians and Reptiles in 1974 (replacing Walker), bring the number of Herpetology curators to three. Nussbaum researches aspects of the evolution, ecology and systematics of amphibians and reptiles, especially taxa endemic to Africa, Seychelles and Madagascar. Over many years, he has extraordinarily active in documenting Malagasy reptile and amphibian diversity, including many unknown and threatened species. This work is of great conservation import and has added very significantly to the UMMZ herpetological collections.

Donald Tinkle was UMMZ Director from 1975 until his premature death in 1980, at the age of 50. His directorship coincided with an academic high water mark for the UMMZ characterized by the production of a remarkable crop of graduate students under the advisorship of, amongst others, evolutionist Alexander, ecologist Tinkle, theorist Hamilton, bird behaviorist Payne and cladist Kluge and amplified by the presence of three or more curators per Division. In October of 1978, the Museum of Zoology celebrated its 50th year in the Ruthven Museums building by convening a symposium on Natural Selection and Social Behavior, areas to which curators and students had made important contributions. About 700 individuals from all over the United States attended, and 31 formal papers were presented. The results were published in 1981 in a commemorative volume.

Tinkle’s directorship also coincided with the 1975 merger of the Departments of Botany and of Zoology into a unified Division of Biological Sciences, a forerunner of the Department of Biology, with four divisions: Botany, Zoology, Cell and Molecular Biology and Ecology, Evolutionary and Organismal Biology. William Dawson, a prominent animal physiologist, was appointed the first Chair of the new department and served from 1975-1982.

Two hires were made under Tinkle. Philip Myers was initially a Visiting Curator of Mammals in 1976, but this became an Assistant Curatorship appointment the following year. Myers has had a dual track career at the UMMZ. One concerns his research program on mammalian evolution and systematics. This has focused on topics such as the evolutionary origins of Andean mammal diversity and on the long-term range dynamics of Michigan mammals associated with regional climate change. The other has involved the origination and development of the highly innovative, award-winning Animal Diversity Web (, a premier source of biodiversity information and science-learning exercises for K-12 and undergraduate students worldwide. William Hamilton joined the UMMZ as Curator of Insects in 1978. He was arguably the most prominent evolutionary theorist of his generation, famous for proposing a genetic basis for kin selection and altruism and winner of many prestigious awards, including while at the UM, foreign honorary membership in the American Academy of Arts and Science and fellowship in the Royal Society of London. The sociobiological implications of his theoretical work were controversial to some and led to student protests on his arrival in Ann Arbor. In 1984, Hamilton was recruited back to his native United Kingdom to accept a position as Royal Society Research Professor at Oxford University.

Upon Tinkle’s death, Robert Storer (Curator of Birds) became the Interim Director from 1980-1982. Two UMMZ curators were appointed during this period. Barry OConnor was hired as a Curator of Insects in 1980. Although he works on insects, OConnor’s main research interest lies in Acari (mites) evolution, systematics and taxonomy. Mites are extremely diverse, but relatively poorly studied. Many form commensal/parasitic associations with specific hosts and the vast majority of species remain undescribed. Over the past three decades, OConnor built, from a very modest base, one of the world’s great mite research collections here in the UMMZ, obtaining NSF support to house his fast-growing microscope slide collection – a remarkable curatorial achievement. He has also described many new species and helped train a new generation of Acarologists. William Fink was appointed Curator of Fishes in 1982 (replacing Reeve Bailey). His research on fish evolution and systematics combines a primary taxonomic focus on piranhas and other Neotropical freshwater fishes, cladistic phylogenetics and morphometric analyses of ontogenies. He was instrumental in organizing the 1988 Michigan Morphometric Workshop that resulted in a UMMZ Special Publication. Fink was an early adopter of museum catalogues computerization, obtaining multiple grants to database, place online and network the UMMZ’s very large fish collection. He also trained the next generation of fish curators at many peer programs and served as UMMZ Director from 2005-2011.

In 1982, William Dawson completed his service as Chair of the Division of Biological Sciences after seven years and was appointed Director of the UMMZ, serving in that role until 1993. This was a period when molecular biology was developing to a point where it could start to be meaningfully applied outside of the discipline of biochemistry to address broader questions in the biological sciences. Dawson presciently foresaw the value of incorporating a molecular perspective into UMMZ research and made the provision of a Laboratory of Molecular Systematics a prerequisite of his appointment. In 1980, Wesley Brown had joined the Biology faculty as a visiting associate professor and when he became a tenured faculty member in 1983, Dawson also appointed him Director of the UMMZ’s new Laboratory of Molecular Systematics. Brown was an early pioneer in the use of mitochondrial DNA and protein sequence variation to address questions of broad evolutionary and phylogenetic significance. He attracted many ambitious post-doctoral researchers to his lab in the Natural Science Building and to the Laboratory of Molecular Systematics in the UMMZ where they collectively tackled a spectrum of high profile evolutionary questions. The use of novel molecular approaches did not meet with unqualified enthusiasm, at least initially, across the broader UMMZ community. However, within a decade, molecular data was being routinely used in UMMZ research projects. In 1986, the Division of Biological Science was transformed into the Department of Biology and Brown became Chair of Biology 1991-1996. This resulted in him and his lab spending less time in the UMMZ and relocating almost completely to the Natural Sciences Building.

During Dawson’s directorship, a number of tenure track Assistant Curators were unsuccessful in obtaining tenure two of these (sequentially) in the Mollusk Division and one each in the Bird and Mammal Divisions. All three vacant curatorial positions (Mammals, Birds, Mollusks) were eventually filled by candidates who had a significant molecular biology component to their research and who successfully achieved tenure. One of the three, Priscilla Tucker, Curator of Mammals, was appointed during Dawson’s leadership in 1988. Tucker is widely recognized for her evolutionary studies of Y chromosomes and also for her detailed genetic deconstruction of a prominent European hybrid zone involving two closely related house mouse species that provide a model system for studying speciation in mammals. She also significantly enhanced the UMMZ’s collection capabilities by obtaining NSF grant support to install our first cryogenic facility, allowing us to have the capacity for high-quality preservation of specimen biomolecular structure. Dawson’s directorship also coincided with a period of significant NSF infrastructure grant support for collections in several UMMZ divisions, including Fishes, Mammals and Reptiles and Amphibians.

Richard Alexander assumed the UMMZ Directorship from 1993-1998. Alexander was deeply committed to the UMMZ and to the role of research museums in LSA academic programs. One of his first duties concerned searches for new Bird and Mollusk Curators. This led to the appointment of Bird Curator David Mindell in 1994 and Mollusk Curator Diarmaid Ó Foighil in 1995, both of whom would eventually become UMMZ Directors. While at the UM, Mindell had an active research program in bird molecular phylogeny, studying both ancient and more recent radiations, and he developed a parallel program in virus evolution. Together with Ó Foighil and others he purchased an ABI automated sequencer that gave UMMZ researchers access to (at the time) cutting edge sequencing capabilities. The sequencer was installed in the Laboratory of Molecular Systematics that was relabeled the Genomic Diversity Lab with Mindell as its Director. He successfully applied for NSF funding to upgrade the bird collection cabinets and subsequently served as UMMZ Director for 3 years. Mindell left the UM in 2008 to become Dean of Science and Research Collections at the California Academy of Sciences. Ó Foighil’s background was in marine mollusk evolution and systematics and his research continued in this vein, but also branched out to work on freshwater and terrestrial taxa, in association with Mollusk Curator John Burch and his students. In particular, he used Burch’s samples of now extirpated partulid tree snail populations to study the evolutionary history, systematics and conservation biology of this endangered Pacific Island radiation. Ó Foighil obtained NSF funding to initiate computerization of the vast UMMZ Mollusk collection. He is currently the UMMZ Director and will next year start a 3-year term as the EEB Chair.

Alexander’s UMMZ directorship unfolded against a background of growing discord within the Department of Biology, some of it aimed towards the associated museum units. This fractiousness was in some respects quite understandable. The Department had

60 faculty spread across multiple buildings and efficient/meaningful communication was especially difficult between the two main blocks (essentially proto-departments with different cultures): Ecology, Evolution, and Organismic Biology (EEOB) and Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology (MCDB). In addition, Biology as a discipline was undergoing rapid expansion and differentiation with the emergence of many new specialized sub-fields. Departmental tensions were most apparent concerning the prioritization of new hiring opportunities and the composition of search committees. Alexander was of the opinion that a constituency within the Department did not value Museum research and was communicating this negative perspective to the college. He feared that LSA planned to significantly cut the number of UMMZ curatorial lines and authored multiple pointed reports to the Dean (Edie Goldenberg) outlining in considerable detail the value of university research museums in general and of the UMMZ’s program in particular.

Gerald Smith was UMMZ Director from 1998-2002, the last three years also holding Directorship of the Herbarium. This was a momentous period for the Department of Biology, the tenure home for UMMZ curators. Following a 1999 external review, the then LSA Dean Shirley Neuman in 2001 implemented the recommendation that the Department be split into two distinct entities. These became known as the Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology (MCDB) and the Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology (EEB). The two associated museum units migrated with the latter. The new EEB Department, led initially (and again subsequently) by Deborah Goldberg was a more cohesive academic environment and had a much better collective appreciation for the importance of museum research. The advanced demographic composition of the UMMZ’s curatorial complement led to three curator retirements during Smith’s directorship: Alexander and Moore (both Insect Division), and Burch (Mollusks). Smith worked assiduously with the College and Department to address these losses and obtained approval from LSA for two searches (that ultimately succeeded in hiring new Insect and Mollusk curators), as well as the appointment of a Manager for the Mollusk Collection – the only major UMMZ collection that lacked this support.

Smith completed his service as UMMZ (and Herbarium) Director in 2002. An external search was approved for a new Director but this proved unsuccessful. David Mindell (Curator of Birds) was appointed Interim Director for one year (2002-2003), then renewed as Director for a subsequent three-year term, of which two were served (2003-2005). The two approved searches led to the appointment of L. Lacey Knowles (Curator of Insects) in 2003 and Thomas Duda (Curator of Mollusks) in 2004. Knowles is a global leader in the development of probabilistic methodologies for phylogenetic and phylogeographic analyses and her main taxonomic focus is Orthoptera (grasshoppers and crickets). She has established a large, diverse and highly productive research program at the UMMZ that attracts many students and post-docs and produces a steady stream of high quality theoretical and empirical publications. Together with Laura Kobota, she hosted a NSF/UMMZ-funded Species Tree Workshop in January 2009 that attracted 170 participants interested in new approaches for estimating species trees to the UMMZ, and she co-edited the resulting book, Estimating Species Trees: Practical and Theoretical Aspects, published in 2010. Duda is an innovative marine evolutionary biologist who has developed a highly integrative research program involving predatory Conus species: cone snails, one of the largest marine genera with hundreds off species. He studies the Conus radiation on many levels from a macroevolutionary perspective across the radiation to within-species analyses that link evolution at specific genes (paralyzing conotoxins) to organismal ecological performance, e.g., prey species repertoires. Duda has also assembled a world-class collection of Conus species, that includes conchological, tissue and expressed gene voucher material as well as data on gut contents, genotype and conotoxin repertoires.

Smith (Fishes) and Kluge (Amphibians & Reptiles) retired in 2003, leaving these two Divisions relatively undermanned with a single curator each, respectively Fink and Nussbaum. In 2004, Mindell submitted an ambitious 5-Year Plan as Director of both the UMMZ and Herbarium. It proposed the unification of the UMMZ and Herbarium facilities with those of EEB in a single building or building complex on central campus. It additionally called for the establishment of an Institute for Systematics, Evolution and Biodiversity to help integrate the research, training and public outreach activities of both museums and for the hiring of additional curators. This proposal did not meet with a receptive audience, in part because the College’s confidential long-term plans called for the relocation of research collections from central campus. Following review of the 5-Year plans submitted by the department and the museums, LSA decided to reduce the number of curators in the UMMZ from a total of 12 (in 6 FTEs) to 8 (in 4 FTEs) and to formalize the reduction in the Herbarium that had already occurred from a peak of 8 to 4 (in 2 FTEs).

Mindell resigned from the UMMZ Directorship in 2005 and William Fink then served in this position from 2005-2011, a particularly eventful six-year period in the Museum’s history. Although many aspects of the program were functioning well – individual research and teaching programs, Knowles’ very successful Species Tree Workshop, networking of online vertebrate collection databases, establishment of the first cryogenic facility, continued success of the Animal Diversity Web – attrition of the curatorial ranks continued with the retirement of Curator of Birds Robert Payne in 2007. This was exacerbated by the departure of the remaining bird curator David Mindell in 2008, leaving one of the major UMMZ collections, with representatives of 2/3rds of the planet’s bird species, without a curator or research and teaching program for the first time. The EEB Department provided critical support in obtaining the College’s approval of two searches during a period of very limited hiring opportunities - one in 2008 for a “Lower Vertebrates” organismal biologist, the other in 2009 for an evolutionary biologist - that held considerable promise for the UMMZ’s program. Unfortunately, neither search proved successful, although during the latter search a formal offer was extended to a highly qualified ornithologist couple.

In 2009, a chronic and long-ignored safety issue regarding the UMMZ’s enormous ethanol-preserved collections, primarily fishes, reptiles and amphibians, finally came to a head. These world-class biodiversity collections were housed in facilities (some dating to the 1920s) that lacked modern fire suppression safety systems. Changing fire codes had put the ethanol-preserved collections in severe violation of new safety standards and the University decided to relocate them to a new collection facility that would meet current safety standards, adjacent to the Herbarium in Varsity Drive. This major initiative represented a very significant investment ($17 million budget) by the UM in the UMMZ research collections, involving the design and construction of new state-of-the-art ethanol collection facilities in Varsity Drive and (on a smaller scale) in Ruthven. The planning and construction phases alone required two years of detailed engagement and oversight by Director Fink, aided by the UMMZ’s impressive team of collection managers.

During 2009-2010, UMMZ Director Fink was involved in a series of LSA-organized and chaperoned discussions with the Chair of EEB Deborah Goldberg and Herbarium Director Paul Berry regarding inter-unit coordination. The College’s clear preference was that both museum units be merged with EEB, citing the need for better programmatic integration and for operational efficiencies. Following a formal joint external review of all three units in 2010, LSA proceeded with the merger, which was completed by July 2011. A detailed set of principles for the merger were mutually agreed on among the three units, including recognition that curatorial care of the collections is a critical function of the department and therefore curator responsibilities should continue to be associated with release from some teaching duties. Curators became 1.0 EEB faculty member and the UMMZ’s 4 FTEs and Herbarium’s 2 FTEs were added to EEB’s total. However, the curator title was retained and it was agreed that the number of faculty curators be maintained at least at the level allocated by the college at the time of the merger (8 in the UMMZ, 4 in the Herbarium). The two museum director positions became EEB associate chairs, reporting to the EEB Chair, but charged with responsibility for oversight of faculty curation, collection staff, and relevant operating budget and endowment funds.