Monday, October 30, 2017

[Mammalogy • 2017] Rediscovery of The Type Series of The Sacred Shrew, Sorex religiosus I. Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, 1826 (Mammalia: Soricidae), with Additional Notes on Mummified Shrews of Ancient Egypt

  Crocidura religiosa   (I. Geoffroy-Saint Hilaire, 1826)
Illustration: P.J. Smit.

 Woodman, Koch & Hutterer, 2017.  


In 1826, Isidore Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire described the Sacred Shrew, Sorex religiosus [= Crocidura religiosa] from a series of 22 embalmed individuals that comprised a portion of the Italian archeologist Joseph Passalacqua’s collection of Egyptian antiquities from an ancient necropolis near Thebes, central Egypt. Living members of the species were not discovered until the beginning of the 20th century and are currently restricted to the Nile Delta region, well north of the type locality. In 1968, the type series of S. religiosus was reported lost, and in 1978, a neotype was designated from among a small collection of modern specimens in the Natural History Museum, London. Our investigations have revealed, however, that the type series is still extant. Most of the specimens used by I. Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire to describe S. religiosus still form part of the Passalacqua Collection in the Ägyptisches Museum, Berlin, Germany. We summarize the taxonomic history of S. religiosus, review the history of the Passalacqua collection, and explain why the type series was thought to have been lost. We designate an appropriate lectotype from among the original syntypes of S. religiosus in the Ägyptisches Museum. Our examination of the shrew mummies in the Passalacqua collection also yielded a species previously unrecorded from either ancient or modern Egypt: Crocidura pasha Dollman, 1915. Its presence increases the number of soricid species embalmed in ancient Egypt to seven and provides additional evidence for a more diverse Egyptian shrew fauna in the archeological past. Finally, we provide details that will assist in better understanding the variety of mummification procedures used to preserve animals in ancient Egypt.

Keywords: Mammalia, ancient Egyptian history, animal mummy, Crocidura olivieriCrocidura pashaCrocidura religiosa, embalming practices, taxonomy

FIGURE 6. Crocidura religiosa, as seen by the Victorian artist P.J. Smit. Detail from plate 23 in Anderson & de Winton (1902).

FIGURE 5. X-ray (A) and micro-CT-scans (B-E) of the skull of the lectotype AM 690 of Sorex religiosus I. Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, 1826 (GLS 15.3 mm): A, B, lateral views; C, sagittal cross section: D, dorsal view; E, ventral view. See the interactive 3D scan in Fig. S2. 

FIGURE 4. Lectotype ÄM 690 of Sorex religiosus I. Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, 1826. A, External view of mummy; B, X-ray of entire specimen. Scale in mm. Photograph courtesy of S. Steiss, Berlin; X-ray image courtesy of C. Schmidt, Berlin.

Crocidura religiosa (I. Geoffroy-Saint Hilaire, 1826)

Diagnosis. Small and greyish-brown Crocidura with paler underparts and limbs. Fur short and silky. Tail thick at base and covered with long bristle-like hairs over most of its length. Head and body length 54 mm, tail 26-40 mm, hindfoot short (8–10 mm s.u., 9–11 mm c.u.). Skull short (GLS 14.4-16.1 mm, Table 1) and slender; braincase flat and dorsal profile straight. Upper toothrow (I1-M3) 5.9-6.8 mm, height of coronoid process (COR) 3.0-3.7 mm. Dentition not specialized. First upper incisor robust, but of medium size (Figs. 3, 5, S2). Upper unicuspid teeth with well-developed cinguli. Upper premolar (P4) with a short parastyle. M1 and M2 with well-separated protocone and hypocone. Upper third molar small. Cutting surface of lower incisor smooth.

Distribution. Today, C. religiosa is confined to the Upper Nile valley and delta (Fig. 1). Its current population status is unknown (Hutterer et al., 2008; Happold, 2013). The most recently reported collection dates from 1988 (Handwerk, 1990). A possible Pleistocene record from Bir Tarfawi indicates the species also may have occurred in southern Egypt at that time, but the identity of the fossil fragments needs to be confirmed (Kowalski et al., 1989; Butler, 1998).

 Vernacular name. We propose to use "Sacred Shrew" as the English common name for this small species. The name coined for it by I. Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire (1826: 294–295) is “musaraigne sacrée,” first translated into English by Partington (1837) and subsequently used by Smedley et al. (1845), Reichenbach (1852: "Heilige Spitzmaus"), Fitzinger (1868), Bodenheimer (1960), and Woodman (2015). “Egyptian Pigmy Shrew” has been used by Le Berre, 1990, Wolsan & Hutterer (1998), Wilson & Cole (2000), Hutterer (2005), Aulagnier et al. (2008), and Happold (2013), while Osborn & Helmy (1980), Osborn & Osbornová (1998), and Hoath (2003) used “Dwarf Shrew.”

Neal Woodman, Claudia Koch and Rainer Hutterer. 2017. Rediscovery of The Type Series of The Sacred Shrew, Sorex religiosus I. Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, 1826, with Additional Notes on Mummified Shrews of Ancient Egypt (Mammalia: Soricidae).  Zootaxa. 4341(1); 1–24. DOI:  10.11646/zootaxa.4341.1.1


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