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The heritage of Karl-Wilhelm Verhoeff

english versiondeutsche Version

Karl-Wilhelm Verhoeff was the most important German specialist in centipedes (Chilopoda), millipedes (Diplopoda) and woodlice (Isopoda). He described several thousand taxa and published 671 papers. His huge amount of publications consists by no means of small papers, but contains books of up to 2000 pages.

Beside a small period between 1900 and 1905, when he was employee at the Zoological Museum of Berlin Verhoeff worked as a private scientist.  


After his dead on 6th December 1945 his scientific heritage was given to the Zoological State Collection of Bavaria at Munich. In 1962 Gisela Mayermayer published a small book about the life and publications. But up to now, no catalogue of the species described by him or the type material housed in the Zoological State Collection of Bavaria was published. 


The reason for this gap is the chaotic state in which the collection was left behind: Both specimen and micropreparations are marked scanty, containing only the locality without date or numbering. Instead of this, the relevant information is found in the publications or in lists, written in an old handwriting, which is difficult to decipher. The types have not been consequently signed. Many specimens have been preserved in dry condition and some of them have beenseparated from the label. Most of this dry material has been transferred into alcohol by former curators.


So it is impossible to identify the type material for a regular curator without the help of a specialist. The original publication has to be studied very carefully and the given type characterisations (figures, localities) have to be compared with the labels on the micropreparations and in the vials. In many cases lectotypes have to be designated, thus most of the material needs a critical revision. 


A special problem arises by the fact, that Verhoeff sold many of his types, because after Wold War I he lived in poverty and had to sell material to support his family (he had three childs). As he did not specify which kind of type he had sold, we have now type conflicts in several taxa and it is another important aim of the GloMyrIS project to solve these problems. 

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