Journal Article

History of research on Proteus anguinus Laurenti 1768 in Slovenia

Aljančič, G.

Record Number:
Folia Biologica et Geologica
Olm or proteus (Proteus anguinus Laurenti 1768) was the first taxonomically described cave animal in the world, by J. N. Laurenti, 1768, upon a specimen that was apparently found on the famous lake Cerkniško jezero, Slovenia, yet the existence of this unusual animal in Slovenija had been known long before. The research on Proteusis one of the oldest Slovenian natural history projects, a 330 year spiritual bond: from the first description by one of pioneers of karst research J. V. Valvasor in 1689, to the renowned naturalists J. A. Scopoli, who was the first researcher to actually examine proteus from the Stična area in 1762. One of the central figures of the early proteus research was Ž. Zois, the first who studied proteus behaviour, and conducted earliest physiological and ecological observations, together with Viennese zoologist Karl von Schreibers. Zois’s work was continued by two researchers of proteus distribution F. J. Hochenwart and H. Freyer, and other researchers of the 19thand 20thcentury. For the last 250 years, this mysterious animal has constantly raised scientific and public attention, and gradually became not only an important symbol of Slovenia’s nature, but also a part of its cultural heritage. The zoologically extraordinary Proteuswas also an important object in the history of international nature research, puzzling the minds of most prominent naturalists, from Linnaeus, Cuvier and Humboldt, to Lamarck and Darwin. This article also presents reproductions of the earliest illustrations of proteus: a collection of ten published and unpublished work between 1752 and 1849, a forgotten heritage of the first 100 years of proteus research. In MemoriamŽiga Zois (1747–1819). Key words: Olm, Proteus anguinus, history of natural history, Slovenia, Zois
Times Cited: