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Dr Smithers' collecting box

By: Duncan Loxton, Category: Museullaneous, Date: 09 Nov 2011

Scientists often need to be resourceful - sometimes with a hammer and saw!

Collecting box #1

Duncan Loxton © Australian Museum

This intriguing box, stoutly made from second hand timber held together by a mix of screws and nails, held glass plate specimens of bark lice on the way from Indonesia to Australia in 1965.

Bark lice packaging

In 1964, Dr Sampurno Kadarsan, Head of the Museum Zoologicum Bogoriense in Indonesia, sought out Courtney Smithers, Curator of Insects at the Australian Museum, to help classify a number of unidentified Psocoptera (bark lice).

The unidentified specimens were sent by air in five lots, a box at a time, in 1965. The box is sturdy enough to have kept its contents safe in transit. Inside, corrugated partitions could have held up to one hundred specimens.

One specimen, a male of the poorly known species Lophopterygella camelina Enderlein was a particular curiosity. Its genus, Lophopterygella, appears in Smithers’ revision of the higher classification of bark lice, for which he was awarded a PhD from Rhodes University in 1970.