Thomas Caverhill Jerdon (12 October 1811 – 12 June 1872) was a British physician, zoologist and botanist. He was a pioneering ornithologist who described numerous species of birds in India. Several species of plants (including the genus Jerdonia) and birds including Jerdon's baza, Jerdon's leafbird, Jerdon's bushlark, Jerdon's nightjar, Jerdon's courser, Jerdon's babbler and Jerdon's bush chat are named after him.
Thomas Caverhill Jerdon
|Born||12 November 1811|
|Died||12 December 1872 (aged 61)|
Thomas was the eldest son of Archibald Jerdon of Bonjedward, near Jedburgh, and was born at Biddick House in County Durham. His early education was at Bishopton Grove near Ripon and later at Bawtry near Doncaster. His father influenced an interest in natural history and although not a well-known naturalist, he was a careful observer and while Thomas took an interest mainly in zoology, his younger brother became an active botanist. Thomas joined Edinburgh University in 1828 as a literary student but attended classes in natural history by Professor Robert Jameson. He joined the Plinian Society, an association of naturalists (another member of which was Charles Darwin), on 23 June 1829. He graduated as a medical student in 1829-1830 and continued medical studies before obtaining an assistant surgeonship in the East India Company's service. He was appointed on 11 September 1835 and he arrived at Madras on 21 February 1836.
His initial work in India was in dealing with fever and dysentery that affected the troops posted in the Ganjam district. During this posting, he described the birds of the Eastern Ghats. On 1 March 1837 he moved to the 2nd Light Cavalry and was posted at Trichinopoly and moved with the regiment to Jalnah in central India. He remained in the Deccan region for the next four years. In 1841 he visited the Nilgiri Hills on leave and in July of the same year he married Flora Alexandrina Matilda Macleod, niece of General Lewis Wentworth Watson. Flora had an interest in botanical art and took an interest in orchids. She was also an excellent guitarist. Around 1845 the Jerdon's lived in their Ooty home Woodside, (Woodside originally belonged to General Watson) and their children were baptised at the local St. Stephens church. Six months later he was appointed Civil Surgeon of Nellore. At Nellore, he interacted with the Yanadi tribes and obtained information on local names of birds and studied the natural history of the area. On 25 October 1844 he was transferred to Fort St. George as Garrison Assistant-Surgeon. During this time he took an interest in the fishes of the Bay of Bengal. On 12 February 1847 he was appointed Civil Surgeon of Tellicherry. This position led him to describe many species from the Malabar region including ants such as the distinctive Harpegnathos saltator. He resigned from civil charge on 3 June 1851 and was promoted as Surgeon with the 4th Light Cavalry in Sagar on 29 February 1852. After peace regained following the 1857 revolts, he was made Surgeon Major on 1 October 1858. He subsequently went to Darjeeling on sick leave and studied the Himalayan fauna before joining back into the 11th Native Infantry regiment in Burma and making use of that opportunity to study the region. Around 1861 a mission to Tibet was to be conducted by Captain E. Smythe and Jerdon was to accompany the group (which included Dr Stewart of the Saharanpur botanical garden; Capt. Bassevi, meteorologist; and Medlicott, geologist) as botanist but failure to obtain passports from Pekin led to the mission being cancelled. Around the same time Lord Canning enabled him to take special duty that would allow him to work on the publication of a series of books on the vertebrates of India. This began with his works on the Birds of India, followed by works on the mammals, reptiles and fish. On 28 February 1868 he retired from service and he was given the honorary position of Deputy Inspector-General of hospitals in Madras on 28 October 1868. While still in Gauhati, Assam he suffered a severe attack of fever and moved to Calcutta to convalesce but his condition deteriorated leading to his return to England in June 1870. In 1871 he became a member of the Berwickshire Natural History Society and joined them on walks. His health however continued to decline and he died at Aubyns Road, Upper Norwood on 12 June 1872, and was buried in West Norwood Cemetery. Flora died at her home in 40 Marina on 24 August 1910 and was buried at the Hastings Borough Cemetery.
Jerdon started collecting birds almost immediately on arrival in India on 21 February 1836. He sent his collections of birds collected during his early travels to William Jardine for identification, but by the time they arrived at Jardine's house in Scotland they had become infested by moths. Jerdon trusted to his own identifications from then on, publishing A Catalogue of the Birds of the Indian Peninsula for the Madras Journal of Literature and Science (1839–40). This included 420 species, almost doubling the list produced earlier by Colonel W. H. Sykes.
The want of brief, but comprehensive Manual of the Natural History of India has been long felt by all interested in such inquiries. At the present, it is necessary to search through voluminous transactions of learned Societies, and scientific Journals, to obtain any general acquaintance with what has been already ascertained regarding the Fauna of India, and, excepting to a few more favorably placed, even these are inaccessible. The issue of a Manual, which should comprise all available information in sufficient detail for the discrimination and identification of such objects of Natural History as might be met with, without being rendered cumbrous by minutiae of synonymy or of history, has therefore long been considered a desideratum.
To meet this want it is proposed to publish a series of such Manuals for all the Vertebrated Animals of India, containing characters of all the classes, orders, families, and genera, and descriptions of all the species of all Mammals, Birds, Reptiles, and Fishes, found in India.
Prospectus in his Birds of India regarding the proposed The Fauna of British India, Including Ceylon and Burma.
Jerdon's most important publication was The Birds of India (1862–64), which included over 1008 species in two volumes with the second volume in two parts. This work was dedicated to Lord Canning and Lord Elgin who supported the venture.
This work was not without its critics. A reviewer pointed out that Jerdon seemed unaware of the significance of geographic distributions in evolutionary relatedness. Jerdon was an admirer of the Quinarian classification of Swainson. Jerdon's opinion on Darwin's theory was that it "perhaps, lays too much stress on external and fortuitous circumstances as producing varieties, and not enough on the inherent power of change." The reviewer also pointed out problems in his usage of George Gray's arrangement of the bird classes and states: "In thus following the phantasies of Kaup, and the mad vagaries of Bonaparte (in his latest writings), we cannot believe that Dr. Jerdon has acted well for his own reputation, nor wisely as regards the class of readers for whom his volumes are specially intended." Jerdon documented the local names of many birds although he did not follow a consistent spelling for Hindi and Urdu words.
Jerdon's other major work was the Illustrations of Indian Ornithology in 1844, which included illustration made by Indian artists (some from Trichinopoly), about which he wrote in his later works:
In 1844, I published a selection of fifty coloured lithographs, chiefly of unfigured birds of Southern India ("Illustrations of Indian Ornithology"); and the excellence and faithfulness of the drawings (the originals of all of which were painted by natives, and half the number, also, lithographed and coloured at Madras) has been universally allowed.
Other works included The Game Birds and Wildfowl of India (1864) and Mammals of India (1874). He had a wide interest in natural history and his studies include descriptions of plants, ants, amphibians, reptiles, birds as well as mammals. Jerdon was instrumental in the birth of The Fauna of British India, Including Ceylon and Burma series. The need for a work on the Indian fauna was felt and it was finally approved by the Secretary of state and was placed under the editorship of W. T. Blanford.
As it grew older it took to going about by itself, and one day found its way to the bazaar and seized a large fish from a moplah. When resisted, it showed such fight that the rightful owner was fain to drop it. Afterwards it took regularly to this highway style of living, and I had on several occasions to pay for my pet's dinner rather more than was necessary, so I resolved to get rid of it. I put it in a closed box, and, having kept it without food for some time, I conveyed it myself in a boat some seven or eight miles off, up some of the numerous back-waters on this coast. I then liberated it, and, when it had wandered out of sight in some inundated paddy-fields, I returned by boat by a different route. That same evening, about nine whilst in the town about one and a-half miles from my own house, witnessing some of the ceremonials connected with the Mohurrum festival, the otter entered the temporary shed, walked across the floor, and came and lay down at my feet!
His work on the reptiles of India was not completed and it was only after his death that the proofs were sent to his home. In 1874 several volumes with his original drawings of reptiles were auctioned by Messrs. Sotheby, Wilkinson and Hodge. Some of these illustrations were purchased by Lord Lilford. Apart from zoology, he also took an interest in botany, although he did not publish on the topic and instead communicated notes to botanists such as Robert Wight. Wight notes that:
I am indebted to Mr. Jerdon for this interesting little plant (Jerdonia indica R. W.), which, as forming the type of a new genus, I have much pleasure in dedicating to the discoverer; an honour well merited by his extensive researches in all branches of organic natural history. Though botany is the last to which he has given his attention, it has already reaped considerable advantage from his energetic application to the study of plants
In his personal matters he was said to be careless and forgetful. He often had trouble with his creditors and during the time of his death he was found to be insolvent. Jerdon has also been noted as being rash. On one occasion, he tried catching a cobra by the tail and got bitten on the tip of finger which he slashed with a pocket knife. He was also nearly strangled by a pet python that he kept.
Jerdon is honored in the specific names of three species of lizards (Calotes jerdoni, Cnemaspis jerdonii, Ophisops jerdonii ) and three species of snakes (Hydrophis jerdonii, Protobothrops jerdonii, Indotyphlops jerdoni ).
The carrot-tail viper gecko (Hemidactylus imbricatus) is a species of gecko. It is found in Pakistan and possibly India, although the Indian records are questionable.Colobinae
The Colobinae are a subfamily of the Old World monkey family that includes 61 species in 11 genera, including the black-and-white colobus, the large-nosed proboscis monkey, and the gray langurs. Some classifications split the colobine monkeys into two tribes, while others split them into three groups. Both classifications put the three African genera Colobus, Piliocolobus, and Procolobus in one group; these genera are distinct in that they have stub thumbs (Greek κολοβός kolobós = "docked"). The various Asian genera are placed into another one or two groups. Analysis of mtDNA confirms the Asian species form two distinct groups, one of langurs and the other of the "odd-nosed" species, but are inconsistent as to the relationships of the gray langurs; some studies suggest that the gray langurs are not closely related to either of these groups, while others place them firmly within the langur group.Ghatixalus variabilis
Ghatixalus variabilis is a species of frog in the family Rhacophoridae. It is endemic to the Western Ghats of southern India. It has a number of common names, including green tree frog, though it is terrestrial rather than arboreal in its life style.Harpegnathos saltator
Harpegnathos saltator, sometimes called the Indian jumping ant or Jerdon's jumping ant, is a species of ant found in India. They have long mandibles and have the ability to leap a few inches. They are large eyed and are active predators that hunt mainly in the early morning hours. The colonies are small and the difference between workers and queens is very slight.Hebius monticola
Common names: hill keelback, mountain keelback, Wynad keelback.Hebius monticola is a harmless colubrid snake species endemic to the Western Ghats of India. They are especially well known from the Kodagu and Wayanad regions of the Western Ghats.Hoplobatrachus crassus
Hoplobatrachus crassus, also called Jerdon's bullfrog, Jerdon's bull frog, and South Indian bullfrog, is a species of frog found widely distributed on the plains of India, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Sri Lanka. Its range may extend to the adjacent Bhutan and Myanmar.Japalura major
Japalura major (large mountain lizard or greater forest agama) is an agamid lizard found in northern India and Nepal. It lives at elevations up to 2,600 metres (8,500 ft).Jerdon's baza
Jerdon's baza (Aviceda jerdoni) is a moderate sized brown hawk with a thin white-tipped black crest usually held erect. It is found in South-east Asia. It inhabits foothills in the terai and is rarer in evergreen forests and tea estates.The common name and Latin binomial commemorate the surgeon-naturalist Thomas C. Jerdon.Jerdon's bush chat
The Jerdon's bush chat (Saxicola jerdoni) is a species of bird in the family Muscicapidae.The common name commemorates the surgeon-naturalist Thomas C. Jerdon.Jerdon's nightjar
Jerdon's nightjar (Caprimulgus atripennis) is a medium-sized nightjar species which is found in southern India and Sri Lanka. Formerly considered as a subspecies of the long-tailed nightjar it is best recognized by its distinctive call which sounds like a wooden plank being beaten periodically with each note ending in a quaver. The common name commemorates the surgeon-naturalist Thomas C. Jerdon who described the species and it was called the Ghat nightjar in older literature.Melon barb
The melon barb (Haludaria fasciata) is a common species of cyprinid fish that is endemic to rivers in Goa, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu in the Western Ghats of South India. They live in a tropical climate in water that typically has a pH of 6.0—6.5, a water hardness of around 5 dGH, and a temperature range of 22–26 °C (72–79 °F). This species can also be found in the aquarium trade.The melon barb is an open water, substrate egg-scatterer, and adults do not guard the eggs. It grows to a length of 6 centimetres (2.4 in).Micrixalus saxicola
Micrixalus saxicola (black torrent frog, Malabar tropical frog, Jerdon's olive-brown frog, small torrent frog) is a species of frog in the family Micrixalidae, found in forest streams in the Western Ghats of India.Microhyla rubra
Microhyla rubra is a species of narrow-mouthed frog endemic to India. Earlier thought to exist also in Sri Lanka, new studies suggested that Sri Lankan population is a different species, now elevated to species level as Microhyla mihintalei.Ophisops beddomei
Ophisops beddomei, commonly known as Beddome's snake-eye or Beddome’ s lacerta, is a species of lizard in the family Lacertidae. The is a diurnal and fast-moving terrestrial lizard, that is endemic to the Western Ghats of India.Pseudophilautus wynaadensis
Pseudophilautus wynaadensis, also known as the Waynad bush frog, common bush frog, tinkling frog, plain-colored bush frog, Malabar coast frog, or dark-eared bush frog, is a species of frog in the family Rhacophoridae. It is endemic to the Western Ghats of India.Smooth-scaled mountain lizard
The smooth-scaled mountain lizard (Cristidorsa planidorsata) is an agamid lizard found in Myanmar and northeast India.Stoliczkia
Stoliczkia is a genus of snakes in the family Xenodermidae. The genus contains only two species, one from Northeast India and the other from Borneo.Stoliczkia khasiensis
Stoliczkia khasiensis (common names: Khasi earth snake, Khase red snake) is a species of snake in the family Xenodermidae. It is endemic to Meghalaya (until 1972 part of Assam), Northeast India. The type locality is Khasi Hills.Takydromus haughtonianus
Takydromus haughtonianus, commonly known as the Goalpara grass lizard, is a species of lizard in the family Lacertidae. The species is endemic to India.