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Of Sea Serpents, Varroa Mites and Mars

Before Varroa destructor got this rather menacing name, it was called Varroa jacobsoni after its collector by the Dutch zoologist Anthonie Cornelis Oudemans.


This is the wall of Oudemans Crater on Mars. Named after Oudemans (the astronomer) and located right here. (Image: NASA)

Oudemans was the son of the noted astronomer Jean Abraham Chr̩tien Oudemans, who had spent the years between 1857-1875 in the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia, more or less), where he Рamong many other things Рpublished six volumes on the triangulation of Java.

Oudemans (the astronomer) on his trip to Réunion in 1874 to observe the Transit of Venus


Java in turn happens to be the place where Varroa jacobsoni was first found by the collector E. Jacobson, who sent it to Oudemans’ son in the Netherlands, who in turn published its taxonomic description in 1904. Anthonie Oudemans, the son, later donated his collection of 1316 mite species to the Rijksmuseum. His original catalogue can be found here, with Varroa jacobsoni duly mentioned on page 300:


Aside from mites, Oudemans was also interested in larger animals. In 1892, he published The Great Sea Serpent, a study of the many sea serpent reports from around the world. Oudemans concluded that the sightings might refer to a previously unknown large seal, which he dubbed Megophias megophias. His work was later considered to be one of the first in cryptozoology.