Storrs L. Olson

Storrs Lovejoy Olson (born April 3, 1944) is an American biologist and ornithologist who spent his career at the Smithsonian Institution, retiring in 2008. One of the world's foremost avian paleontologists, he is best known for his studies of fossil and subfossil birds on islands such as Ascension, St. Helena and Hawaii. His early higher education took place at Florida State University in 1966, where he obtained a B.A. in Biology, and the University of Florida, where he received an M.S. in Biology. Olson's doctoral studies took place at Johns Hopkins University, in what was then the School of Hygiene and Public Health. He has been married to fellow paleornithologist Helen F. James.

Storrs L. Olson
BornApril 3, 1944 (age 75)
OccupationAvian paleontologist
Spouse(s)
Helen F. James
(m. 1981; div. 2006)

Early life and education

Olson was born April 4, 1944 in Chicago, Illinois. His father was physical oceanographer Franklyn C.W. Olson. He was named after his maternal conservationist grandfather P.S. Lovejoy.[1] Franklyn worked at the University of Ohio's Stone Laboratory on Gibraltar Island. In these lacustrine surroundings, Storrs developed an interest in fishes.

In 1950, Olson's family moved to Tallahassee, Florida when Franklyn took a job at Florida State University. Young Olson's interests shifted to ornithology at age 12. Olson graduated from Leon High School in 1962. In 1963, he moved to Panama to assist a friend with his research on fishes. He would return to Panama in 1966 as an undergraduate, to study the immunology of vultures.

His higher education began at the University of Florida under the colorful Pierce Brodkorb and spurred his interest in paleornithology. He returned to Florida State in 1968 to complete his master's degree.

Career and graduate education

Olson's work in Panama attracted the attention of Alexander Wetmore in 1967, as Wetmore was preparing a monograph on Panama bird life. Their contact at the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH)—administered by the Smithsonian—earned Olson a summer job in the Fish and Wildlife Service under Richard C. Banks the next year.[1] He then became resident manager at the Smithsonian's new Chesapeake Bay Center in Edgewater, Maryland.

The Center had connections to Johns Hopkins University, and Olson was encouraged to enroll there for graduate school. He would matriculate at the School of Hygiene and Public Health in the Department of Pathobiology under Bernhard Bang. With the Smithsonian's backing, Olson went to Ascension Island and Saint Helena in 1970 and 1971, where he discovered the Saint Helena hoopoe and the Saint Helena crake.[2] This work was the basis of his dissertation on the evolution of rails. Johns Hopkins would award Olson an Sc. D. in 1972.

By August 1971 he was working at the NMNH on a predoctoral fellowship. He wrote on fossil rails for a 1977 monograph by Sidney Dillon Ripley. In March 1975, he was made curator of the Division of Birds.

In 1976 he met his future wife Helen F. James who later became another notable paleornithologist herself, focusing on Late Quaternary prehistoric birds.[3] During their pioneering research work on Hawaii, which lasted 23 years, Olson and James found and described the remains of 50 extinct bird species new to science, including the nēnē-nui, the moa-nalos, the apteribises, and the Grallistrix "stilt-owls".[4] He was also one of the authors of the description of the extinct rodent Noronhomys vespuccii.[5] In 1982, he discovered subfossil bones of the long ignored Brace's emerald on the Bahamas, which gave evidence that this hummingbird is a valid and distinct species.[6]

In November 1999, Olson wrote an open letter to the National Geographic Society, in which he criticized Christopher P. Sloan's claims about the dinosaur-to-bird transition which referred to the fake species "Archaeoraptor".[7] In 2000, he helped to resolve the mystery of Necropsar leguati from the World Museum Liverpool, which turned out to be an albinistic specimen of the grey trembler.[8]

Personal life

Olson married his long-time colleague Helen F. James in 1981.[9]

Honors

Olson has been decorated as one of the world's foremost paleornithologists.[10] He was also the 1994 recipient of the Loye and Alden Miller Research Award.[11] He was formerly curator of birds at the United States National Museum of Natural History; as of 2009, he holds an emeritus position in the institution.[12]

Several prehistoric bird species have been named after Olson, including Nycticorax olsoni,[13] Himantopus olsoni,[14] Puffinus olsoni,[15] Primobucco olsoni,[16] Gallirallus storrsolsoni,[17] and Quercypodargus olsoni.[18] In addition, a sand stargazer fish, Storrsia olsoni has its binomial derived from and honouring Olson, who collected the type off Brazil.[19]

References

  1. ^ a b "Storrs Lojevoy Olson". The Washington Biologists' Field Club: its members and its history (1900–2006) (PDF). The Washington Biologists’ Field Club. 2007. pp. 217–218. ISBN 978-0-615-16259-1.
  2. ^ Olson, Storrs L. (1975). "Paleornithology of St Helena Island, south Atlantic Ocean" (PDF). Smithsonian Contributions to Paleobiology. 23.
  3. ^ "Helen F. James". National Museum of Natural History Smithsonian Institution. Archived from the original on 2011-06-05.
  4. ^ James, Helen F. & Olson, Storrs L. (1991). "Descriptions of thirty-two new species of birds from the Hawaiian Islands: Part I. Non-passeriformes". Ornithological Monographs. 45: 42–47. doi:10.2307/40166794.
  5. ^ Carleton, M.D. & Olson, S.L. (1999). "Amerigo Vespucci and the rat of Fernando de Noronha: a new genus and species of Rodentia (Muridae, Sigmodontinae) from a volcanic island off Brazil's continental shelf". American Museum Novitates. 3256: 1–59. hdl:2246/3097.
  6. ^ Graves, Gary R. & Olson, Storrs L. "Chlorostilbon bracei Lawrence, an extinct species of Hummingbird from New Providence Island, Bahamas". Auk. 104 (2): 296–302.
  7. ^ Luis Sanz, José; Ortega, Francisco (16 February 2000). "El 'escándalo archaeoraptor'" [The Archaeoraptor scandal] (in Spanish). El País.
  8. ^ Olson, Storrs L.; Fleischer, Robert C.; Fisher, Clemency T. & Bermingham, Eldredge. "Expunging the 'Mascarene starling' Necropsar leguati: archives, morphology and molecules topple a myth". Bulletin of the British Ornithologists' Club. 125 (1): 31–42. hdl:10088/1564.
  9. ^ "Helen Frances James". The Washington Biologists' Field Club: its members and its history (1900–2006) (PDF). The Washington Biologists’ Field Club. 2007. pp. 167–168. ISBN 978-0-615-16259-1.
  10. ^ "Loye and Alden Miller Research Award Recipients – Storrs Olson". Archived from the original on August 14, 2007. Retrieved 2008-01-18.
  11. ^ "Loye and Alden Miller Research Award Recipients". Archived from the original on August 14, 2007. Retrieved 2008-01-18.. Cooper Ornithological Society
  12. ^ "Birds Staff, Division of Birds, NMNH". Retrieved 2009-12-11.
  13. ^ Bourne, W. R. P., Ashmole, N. P. & Simmons K. E. L. (2003). "A new subfossil night heron and a new genus for the extinct rail from Ascension Island, central tropical Atlantic Ocean" (PDF). Ardea. 91 (1): 45–51.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
  14. ^ Bickart, K. J. (1990). "The birds of the late Miocene-early Pliocene Big Sandy Formation, Mohave County, Arizona". Ornithological Monographs. 44 (44): 1–72. doi:10.2307/40166673.
  15. ^ Rando, J. C.; Alcover, J. A. (2007). "Evidence for a second western Palaearctic seabird extinction during the last Millennium: The Lava Shearwater Puffinus olsoni". Ibis. 150: 188. doi:10.1111/j.1474-919X.2007.00741.x.
  16. ^ Feduccia, A. & Martin, L. D. (1976). "The Eocene zygodactyl birds of North America (Aves: Piciformes)". Smithsonian Contributions to Paleobiology. 27: 101–110.
  17. ^ Kirchman, Jeremy J. & Steadman, David W. (2006). "New Species of Rails (Aves: Rallidae) From an Archaeological Site on Huahine, Society Islands". Pacific Science. 60 (2): 281–298. doi:10.1353/psc.2006.0007. hdl:10125/22565.
  18. ^ Mourer-Cliauviré, C. (1989). "Les Caprimulgiformes et les Coraciiformes de l'Éocène et de l'Oligocène des phosphorites du Quercy et description de deux genres nouveaux de Podargidae et Nyctibiidae" [Caprimulgiformes and Coraciiformes of the Eocene and Oligocene in phosphorites form Quercy and description of two new genera of Podargidae and Nyctibiidae]. Acta Congr. Int. Ornithol. (in French). 19: 2047–2055.
  19. ^ Christopher Scharpf; Kenneth J. Lazara (29 January 2019). "Order BLENNIIFORMES: Families TRIPTERYGIIDAE and DACTYLOSCOPIDAE". The ETYFish Project Fish Name Etymology Database. Christopher Scharpf and Kenneth J. Lazara. Retrieved 6 May 2019.

External links

1975 in paleontology

Paleontology or palaeontology (from Greek: paleo, "ancient"; ontos, "being"; and logos, "knowledge") is the study of prehistoric life forms on Earth through the examination of plant and animal fossils. This includes the study of body fossils, tracks (ichnites), burrows, cast-off parts, fossilised feces (coprolites), palynomorphs and chemical residues. Because humans have encountered fossils for millennia, paleontology has a long history both before and after becoming formalized as a science. This article records significant discoveries and events related to paleontology that occurred or were published in the year 1975.

1976 in paleontology

Paleontology or palaeontology (from Greek: paleo, "ancient"; ontos, "being"; and logos, "knowledge") is the study of prehistoric life forms on Earth through the examination of plant and animal fossils. This includes the study of body fossils, tracks (ichnites), burrows, cast-off parts, fossilised feces (coprolites), palynomorphs and chemical residues. Because humans have encountered fossils for millennia, paleontology has a long history both before and after becoming formalized as a science. This article records significant discoveries and events related to paleontology that occurred or were published in the year 1976.

1977 in paleontology

Paleontology or palaeontology (from Greek: paleo, "ancient"; ontos, "being"; and logos, "knowledge") is the study of prehistoric life forms on Earth through the examination of plant and animal fossils. This includes the study of body fossils, tracks (ichnites), burrows, cast-off parts, fossilised feces (coprolites), palynomorphs and chemical residues. Because humans have encountered fossils for millennia, paleontology has a long history both before and after becoming formalized as a science. This article records significant discoveries and events related to paleontology that occurred or were published in the year 1977.

1981 in paleontology

Paleontology or palaeontology (from Greek: paleo, "ancient"; ontos, "being"; and logos, "knowledge") is the study of prehistoric life forms on Earth through the examination of plant and animal fossils. This includes the study of body fossils, tracks (ichnites), burrows, cast-off parts, fossilised feces (coprolites), palynomorphs and chemical residues. Because humans have encountered fossils for millennia, paleontology has a long history both before and after becoming formalized as a science. This article records significant discoveries and events related to paleontology that occurred or were published in the year 1981.

1985 in paleontology

Paleontology or palaeontology (from Greek: paleo, "ancient"; ontos, "being"; and logos, "knowledge") is the study of prehistoric life forms on Earth through the examination of plant and animal fossils. This includes the study of body fossils, tracks (ichnites), burrows, cast-off parts, fossilised feces (coprolites), palynomorphs and chemical residues. Because humans have encountered fossils for millennia, paleontology has a long history both before and after becoming formalized as a science. This article records significant discoveries and events related to paleontology that occurred or were published in the year 1985.

1989 in paleontology

Paleontology or palaeontology (from Greek: paleo, "ancient"; ontos, "being"; and logos, "knowledge") is the study of prehistoric life forms on Earth through the examination of plant and animal fossils. This includes the study of body fossils, tracks (ichnites), burrows, cast-off parts, fossilised feces (coprolites), palynomorphs and chemical residues. Because humans have encountered fossils for millennia, paleontology has a long history both before and after becoming formalized as a science. This article records significant discoveries and events related to paleontology that occurred or were published in the year 1989.

1991 in paleontology

Paleontology or palaeontology (from Greek: paleo, "ancient"; ontos, "being"; and logos, "knowledge") is the study of prehistoric life forms on Earth through the examination of plant and animal fossils. This includes the study of body fossils, tracks (ichnites), burrows, cast-off parts, fossilised feces (coprolites), palynomorphs and chemical residues. Because humans have encountered fossils for millennia, paleontology has a long history both before and after becoming formalized as a science. This article records significant discoveries and events related to paleontology that occurred or were published in the year 1991.

1992 in paleontology

Paleontology or palaeontology (from Greek: paleo, "ancient"; ontos, "being"; and logos, "knowledge") is the study of prehistoric life forms on Earth through the examination of plant and animal fossils. This includes the study of body fossils, tracks (ichnites), burrows, cast-off parts, fossilised feces (coprolites), palynomorphs and chemical residues. Because humans have encountered fossils for millennia, paleontology has a long history both before and after becoming formalized as a science. This article records significant discoveries and events related to paleontology that occurred or were published in the year 1992.

Bermuda night heron

The Bermuda night heron (Nyctanassa carcinocatactes) is an extinct heron species from Bermuda. It is sometimes assigned to the genus Nycticorax. It was first described in 2006 by Storrs L. Olson and David B. Wingate from subfossil material found in the Pleistocene and Holocene deposits in caves and ponds of Bermuda. Its anatomy was rather similar to its living relative, the yellow-crowned night heron (Nyctanassa violacea), but it had a heavier bill, a more massive skull and more robust hind limbs. The specialization of the bill and the hind limbs showed that it was apparently adapted to the feeding on land crabs. There are also early historian reports referring to that species. It possibly became extinct due to the settlement of the Bermuda islands in the 17th century. On Bermuda the aforementioned yellow-crowned night heron has been introduced to act as its equivalent in the ecosystem.

Branta rhuax

Branta rhuax is an extinct goose endemic to the island of Hawai'i. It was initially described as the monotypic genus Geochen, but then reassigned to Branta by Storrs L. Olson in 2013 after reexamination of the subfossil material.

Bubo osvaldoi

Bubo osvaldoi is an extinct species of horned owl from Pleistocene of Cuba.It was described by Oscar Arredondo and Storrs L. Olson in 1994 from three bones found in a cave in the Guaniguanico mountain range in Pinar del Río. Analysis of these indicates that the species was larger than any current owl.

Gerandibis

Gerandibis is an extinct genus of ibis known from fossil remains from early Miocene (Aquitanian) beds in France. It contains a single species, Gerandibis pagana, which was originally described by Milne-Edwards in 1868 as Ibis pagana. Richard Sharpe classified it in the genus Eudocimus, but Storrs L. Olson placed it in the genus Plegadis due to anatomical similarities closer to that genus. The ibises of the genus Plegadis have two natural foramina (holes) in the intertrochlear groove in the distal section of the tarsometatarsus, where as ibises of Eudocimus (and many other species of bird) have one small foramen. P. paganus has two small holes akin to living species of Plegadis. The species was eventually made the type species of a separate genus Gerandibis by Vanesa L. De Pietri (2013).

Meleagridinae

Meleagridinae is a subfamily of birds in the family Phasianidae. It includes turkeys and their extinct relatives.

Palaeotis

Palaeotis is a genus of paleognath birds from the middle Eocene epoch of central Europe. One species is known, Palaeotis weigelti. The holotype specimen is a fossil tarsometatarsus and phalanx. Lambrect (1928) described it as an extinct bustard (genus Otis), and gave it its consequent name (Palaeotis means ancient bustard). After a suggestion by Storrs L. Olson, a review of the type specimen and the referral of several other fossils by Houde and Haubold (1987) concluded that Palaeotis is a palaeognath and assigned it to the same order as ostriches; the Struthioniformes.

In the 1930s a nearly complete fossil with catalog number GM 4362 was assigned to Palaeotis, probably by Lambrecht. Houde and Haubold found three additional specimens in the collection of the Geiseltalmuseum, Martin-Luther University, Halle/S., Germany. One of those three is the holotype specimen of Paleogrus geiseltalensis (=Ornithocnemus geiseltalensis, Lambrecht 1935). Houde and Haubold also requested permission to prepare a fossil cataloged as HLMD Me 7530 at the Hesseches Landesmuseum in Darmstadt, Germany. HLMD Me 7530 was collected from the famous Messel shales. When it was prepared, the two ornithologists assigned it to Palaeotis as well.

Other scientists are less convinced that Palaeotis is a struthioniform, placing it instead as a more basal ratite. It may be related to the mysterious Remiornis, a putative ratite known from the Eocene of France. Various other ratite remains also occur in the European Paleogene and early Miocene, and these may represent various independent linages, leading to further confusion.

Paleornithology

Paleornithology also known as Avian Paleontology is the scientific study of bird evolution and fossil birds. It is a mix of ornithology and paleontology. Paleornithology began with the discovery of Archaeopteryx. The reptilian relationship of birds and their ancestors, the theropod dinosaurs, are important aspects of paleornithological research. Other areas of interest to paleornithologists are the early sea-birds Ichthyornis, Hesperornis, and others. Notable paleornithologists are Storrs L. Olson, Alexander Wetmore, Alan Feduccia, Cécile Mourer-Chauviré, Philip Ashmole, Pierce Brodkorb, Trevor H. Worthy, Zhou Zhonghe, Yevgeny Kurochkin, Bradley C. Livezey, Gareth J. Dyke, Luis M. Chiappe, Gerald Mayr and David Steadman.

Pile-builder megapode

The pile-builder megapode (Megapodius molistructor) is an extinct species of megapode. The subfossil remains were found by Jean-Christophe Balouet and Storrs L. Olson in the Pindai Caves of New Caledonia. Its remains have also been found on Tonga.

Saint Helena hoopoe

The Saint Helena hoopoe (Upupa antaios), also known as the Saint Helena giant hoopoe or giant hoopoe, is an extinct species of the hoopoe (family Upupidae), known exclusively from an incomplete subfossil skeleton. It was last seen around 1550.It was endemic to the island of Saint Helena in the South Atlantic. It was most likely flightless.

The first analysis of this species was given in 1963 by the British zoologist Philip Ashmole, who discovered, in the Dry Gut sediments east of Saint Helena, a left humerus which differed significantly from that of other Upupidae.

The incomplete skeleton, which was found in 1975 by the palaeontologist Storrs L. Olson, consists of both coracoids and the left femur.

Scopus xenopus

Scopus xenopus is a extinct species of hamerkop that lived during the Pliocene of South Africa. It was first described by Storrs L. Olson in 1984. Compared to S. umbretta, the modern hamerkop, S. xenopus was larger and had a foot structure more adapted to swimming.

Talpanas

Talpanas lippa, the Kauaʻi mole duck, is an extinct species of duck. It was first described by Andrew N. Iwaniuk, Storrs L. Olson, and Helen F. James in the journal Zootaxa in November 2009. It is the only known member of the genus Talpanas. It was endemic to the Hawaiian island of Kauai where the fossil remains were unearthed in the Makauwahi Cave, Maha‘ulepu. The archaeological association of the bones is about 6000 years BP (around 4050 BCE).

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