Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Friedrich Siebenrock and an eponymous genus

I noticed that Friedrich Siebenrock (1853-1925) the Austrian herpetologist, got mentioned in The Eponym Dictionary of Reptiles* for three species or subspecies named after him but not for the genus (originally with one but now with two, species) of freshwater chelonians named after him by Lindholm in 1929.

Friedrich Siebenrock

I kept a couple of the species then thought to be the only species in the genus, Siebenrockiella crassicollis—the Black Marsh Terrapin (in U.K. usage for freshwater chelonians) forty years ago. Why? Well, that’s a long story. But here are a couple of photographs of one of them, showing the white spots on the neck.





Now classified as ‘Vulnerable’ this species, like all those in south-east Asia, have been hammered by the trade for human food.

The shape of the jaws gives them a benign look and they are sometimes known as the ‘smiling terrapin’. The ones I had were of benign behaviour (although the Wikipedia article on them says they can bite severely when roughly handled) and would take food from the fingers.

Poor old Siebenrock died in 1925, in poverty after his retirement from the natural history museum in Vienna in 1920, according to all the information on him†, in 1925, four years before Lindholm erected the genus.


*Beolens B, Watkins M, Grayson M. 2011. The Eponym Dictionary of Reptiles. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins

†Adler K (editor). 2014. Contributions to the History of Herpetology. Volume 1 (revised and expanded). Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles.