[MARMAM] Port Elizabeth Museum marine mammal collection

Greg Hofmeyr greg at bayworld.co.za
Sun Jan 2 22:26:35 PST 2011

The Graham Ross Marine Mammal Collection of the Port Elizabeth Museum, South
Africa, reached a milestone late last year with the accessioning of specimen
number PEM N4000, making it one of the largest marine mammal collections in
the world. Marine mammals have been collected by the museum since 1901, when
a southern right whale skeleton was obtained by F.W. FitzSimmons, the
farsighted director of the museum at the time. A true marine mammal
collection was only started, however, with the appointment of the equally
visionary Graham Ross in the late 1960’s. He remained the curator for some
twenty years. Graham was followed by the energetic Vic Cockroft, who ensured
that the collection continued to grow in strength and value. While the
collection was without a curator from Vic’s departure for about seven years,
it was looked after by research technician Wendy Kant and continued to grow.
Besides those already mentioned, a number of others have contributed to the
growth and management of the collection including Vanessa Isaacs, Mzi
Mahola, Mike Mtati, Thithi Sodi, Carolyn Stewardson, Gillian Watson and
Debbie Young.

Currently the collection comprises 39 species of extant cetaceans, a number
of fossil cetaceans, 12 species of pinnipeds and one species of sirenian.
The collection contains important material of a number of rare and little
known species including humpback dolphins, both pygmy and dwarf sperm
whales, and nine species of extant ziphiids. Amongst the latter specimens,
the poorly known Longman’s and Hector’s beaked whales are included. It also
includes the type specimen for the fossil beaked whale, _Izikoziphius
rossi_. The majority of the specimens originate from strandings and bycatch
along the southern and eastern coasts of South Africa, although pinnipeds
from Southern Ocean islands are also well represented. Over the last few
decades numerous scientists have visited and used the collection for their
research, including Nelio Barros, Peter Best, Merel Dalebout, Tom Jefferson,
Toshio Kasuya, Cath Kemper and Klaas Post. 

The collection continues to grow by some 80 specimens per year. Current
efforts to increase the value of the collection include ensuring access to
new specimens through new institutional links, a revitalised programme for
processing specimens in detail, new educational programmes and the
reorganisation of the collection. 

The specimen in question (N4000) is the skull of a Subantarctic fur seal
collected in the Subantarctic in 1998 by Steve Kirkman as part of the
Southern Ocean research programme run by Marthán Bester of the Mammal
Research Institute, University of Pretoria.

Greg Hofmeyr (curator) & Dr. Stephanie Plön (research associate)

Greg Hofmeyr (marine mammal biologist & curator)
Bayworld (Port Elizabeth Museum, Oceanarium & Snakepark)
P.O.Box 13147, Humewood 6013, Port Elizabeth, South Africa
Tel: +27 (0)41 584 0650, Fax: +27 (0)41 584 0661
Email: greg at bayworld.co.za <mailto:greg at bayworld.co.za> 

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