Translated from Dutch Vroege Vogels radio:
Dragonflies on watercolors
Friday, December 1, 2017
At the end of the nineteenth century, the Belgian Baron Edmond de Sélys Longchamps drew and painted many hundreds of dragonflies. Not for fun, but for science.
An important and valuable collection. Still, the folders with dragonfly aquarelles fell into oblivion. But in 2002 they were found again, almost literally under a layer of dust in a cabinet at the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences in Brussels.
Since then the Dutch dragonfly researchers Karin Verspui and Marcel Wasscher have studied the drawings. ‘We are talking about a time when there was obviously no good photography yet. This kind of drawings and watercolors were the gold standard for describing species”, says Verspui. ‘There are very special examples, including many so-called holotype specimens. These are the original individuals used to describe a new species. Where most of the type specimens themselves have completely lost their color, these watercolors are still of exceptional quality. These drawings deserve a larger audience”, says Verspui.
The digitized watercolors can be found on the RBINS site.
Ms Verspui said today on radio that Baron Edmond de Sélys Longchamps was an amateur entomologist. Nevertheless, he wrote scientific descriptions of about 700 dragonfly and damselfly species; about a third of the 2000 species known to science then.