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  • José H. Leal

First Child Love!

Arene flexispina

If you have more than one child, do you love the first one more than the other(s)? I believe I feel the same love for my two daughters, but when it comes to the shells I named, the first one stands out in the way I care for them. Last week, I was delighted to see a wonderful pair of images of Arene flexispina (Leal & Coelho, 1985), the first species of mollusks I named, posted in the website. The two images were taken by one the great contemporary shell (and living mollusk) photographers, Simon Piers Aiken. I love this species, not necessarily only because it was my “first child” in the field of mollusk studies, but also because of the twists and turns that followed the naming of the new species. I first collected the type series (the shells used in the original description) as a graduate student, during a marine geology sampling cruise sponsored by the Brazilian Navy. We collected the material in 1978, just outside of the Abrolhos Archipelago, a beautiful coral reef area off Bahia State, in eastern Brazil. The material was collected via a small bottom grab that catches the equivalent of a couple of gallons of sediment. The description was published in The Nautilus in 1985, my first new species, my first article in our journal. In 1987, I returned to the area with Philippe Bouchet (Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, Paris), for the cruise MD55 of the original, 370 feet-long French research vessel Marion-Dufresne. I convinced Philippe to speak with the ship's capitain, to ask him to perform some additional dredge hauls in an attempt to once again retrieve the species. The captain would have to change the cruise plan by a few dozen nautical miles to get to the type locality, the 80 m-deep spot where the species was first found. Philippe twisted the captain’s arm (after much debacle), we moved to the best approximation of the spot, dredged, and were lucky enough to collect more specimens, nine years after the collection of the species! And, thanks to the dedication and courage of staff at their Section of Malacology, the type of Arene flexispina was saved from burning in the early September, 2018 fire at the Museu Nacional in Rio de Janeiro." (The shell in Simon's photos is 7.6 mm, and was dredged at 60–80 meters, off Alcobaça, Bahia State, Brazil, in February 2018.)

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