Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Emil Selenka

Emil Selenka (27 February 1842 - 21 January 1902
Emil Selenka died 113 years ago today, just before his 60th birthday. He was an eminent German zoologist, who spent much of his career studying the development of marine invertebrates, especially sea cucumbers. He turned to vertebrates rather late but made important contributions to the embryology and placentation of primates. His work on gibbons and orangutans is especially significant.

Pregnant uterus of Hylobates agilis (rafflei) showing the decidua
capsularis (d.c.) reproduced by Hill (here) from Selenka

I have shown this image before to document that gibbons resemble other great apes in having a decidua capsularis. Thus implantation is interstitial as it is in the human.

Fetus of Hylobates muelleri (Müller's Bornean Gibbon) and
uterus of Nomascus concolor (Black Crested Gibbon) from Selenka
In a moving tribute to Selenka, his pupil Hubrecht (previous post) wrote that his artistic talent was so great that it was almost a pity he became a professor of zoology rather than a painter.

Selenka amassed a large number of specimens and kept the skeletons as well as the reproductive tracts. He felt the maximum information should be gained from the animals that lost their lives. One recent study (here) estimates that Hubrecht may have bagged as many as 400 orangutans between 1892 and 1895.

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