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Five old crabs, and a fresh one


One month after both Dutch and international media reported about my efforts to obtain pubic lice for the collection of the Natural History Museum Rotterdam (see an earlier post on this subject), it is my pleasure to report that the museum received a mere total of six crab specimens: five almost 60 year old dry-preserved, and one freshly preserved specimen in alcohol.

The old pubic lice come from the Municipal Mental Institution ‘Maasoord’, south of Rotterdam. This fine sample was donated to the museum by the insect collector Nico Elfferich (now 80years old) who obtained the crab lice in 1949 from a friend who worked as a nurse at the Mental Institution. The single fresh specimen comes from the Regional Health Service (GGD) ‘Kennemerland’ in Haarlem were, in August 2007, Dr. Anne de Vries was presented a patient complaining of crawling bugs in his crotch. She asked the patient to collect some of the insects, identified them as Phthirus pubis and secured them. Anne de Vries is a rare example of a doctor that took the effort to preserve a recent sample of a declining species.

Both the old and the fresh pubic lice sample will be on display in the museum as of November 20, 2007.

It is my hope that other samples of pubic lice will reach the museum, especially from overseas and with full data, please. Click here to see where we are. For a Dutch language report, see my article in NRC Handelsblad of November 17, 2007.

Improbable Research