ZooKeys 426: 11–16, doi: 10.3897/zookeys.426.8011
The myriapodological legacy of Victor Ivanovich Motschoulsky (1810–1871)
Sergei Golovatch 1
1 Russian Academy of Sciences, Institute for Problems of Ecology and Evolution, Leninsky pr. 33, 119071 Moscow, Russia

Corresponding author: Sergei Golovatch (sgolovatch@yandex.ru)

Academic editor: Didier Spiegel

received 2 June 2014 | accepted 4 July 2014 | Published 17 July 2014
(C) 2014 Sergei Golovatch. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
For reference, use of the paginated PDF or printed version of this article is recommended.

Citation: Golovatch S (2014) The myriapodological legacy of Victor Ivanovich Motschoulsky (1810–1871). ZooKeys 426: 11–16. doi: 10.3897/zookeys.426.8011


The little that remains of Motschoulsky’s myriapodological legacy in the collection of Moscow’s Zoological Museum proves to be of very limited value. Only one species of Diplopoda described by Motschoulsky, the Caucasian Hirudisoma roseum (Victor, 1839), is still in use, yet requiring a neotype designation, whereas the remaining few myriapod names he proposed are either nomina dubia or nomina nuda. The former include Scolopendra pentagramma Motschoulsky, 1866 (Chilopoda, Scolopendromorpha, Scolopendridae) and Strongylosoma carinulatum Motschoulsky, 1866 (Diplopoda, Polydesmida, Paradoxosomatidae), both from Japan, as well as Julus costulatus Motschoulsky, 1851 (Diplopoda, Callipodida, Schizopetalidae?), from Montenegro, because their type material is either inadequate or missing.


Myriapoda, taxonomy, Zoological Museum, Moscow, Russia


With the recent publication of V. I. Motschoulsky’s memoirs (Krivokhatsky 2013) and several reviews of that book (Mikhailov 2013, 2014, Mikhailov and Golovatch 2014), public interest to his legacy has considerably revived. Motschoulsky (= Motschulsky) is best known as a prominent Russian entomologist of his time, mostly a specialist in beetles (Fig. 1). His collection is currently kept in the Zoological Museum of the State University of Moscow, Russia (ZMUM).

Figure 1.

Portrait of Victor Ivanovich Motschoulsky.

Motschoulsky’s published contributions to myriapodology are very few, but even these have largely remained neglected. To my knowledge, no-one has ever attempted to revise any of Motschoulsky’s myriapod types.


The Moscow Museum collection of Myriapoda still contains Motschoulsky’s original wooden box full of dry pinned animals (Fig. 2)! There are a few dozen species of Diplopoda, many of which exotic (e.g. Andrognathidae, Platydesmida or Platyrhacidae, Polydesmida), and only a couple of larger Scolopendridae specimens. Much of the material is in poor condition, damaged by dermestid beetle larvae.

Figure 2.

Picture showing Motschoulsky’s box with pinned dry Myriapoda (ZMUM collection).


Despite such a profound diversity, most of the diplopods are devoid of labels. Those which are labeled are either identified (e.g. “Polydesmus complanatus (L.)” or “Scolopendra spinula Brandt”) or bear provisional names marked as “mihi”. These latter specimens must be considered as nomina nuda. One such name has even been published: Julus melanocephalus Motschoulsky, 1851, said to be very common across Montenegro, even though specimens were clearly smaller near Cattaro (Motschoulsky 1851: 595). Since neither a diagnosis nor a description has been provided, that nomen nudum has rightly been ignored ever since.

The few samples of “Polyzonium germanicum Brandt” contained in the ZMUM box may well represent the material Motschoulsky (1853) reported from Valaam Island, White Sea, Russia’s North (Russian translation: Krivokhatsky 2013: 176). Their identification is correct.

Motschoulsky, sometimes under the pseudonym “Victor”, is known to have published only four valid myriapod species. The earliest is Leiosoma rosea (recte: -um) Victor, 1839, from eastern Georgia, Caucasus (Victor 1839), properly redescribed from additional samples from Transcaucasia much later (Lignau 1911). Since the name Leiosoma Victor, 1839, established for Leiosoma roseum by monotypy, is preoccupied by Leiosoma Stephens, 1829 (Coleoptera) (Jeekel 1970), most of the subsequent references to Leiosoma roseum (e.g. Lohmander 1936, Kobakhidze 1965) are incorrect. The species currently belongs to Hirudisoma Fanzago, 1881 (e.g. Latzel 1884 et auctorum) and is now referred to as Hirudisoma roseum (Victor, 1839) (e.g. Lokšina and Golovatch 1979). Even though no type material of that species could be traced in the ZMUM box, the identity of Hirudisoma roseum, a presumed Caucasian endemic, will become unquestioned as soon as a neotype is designated in the future.

The second valid diplopod name proposed by Motschoulsky (1851), Julus costulatus Motschoulsky, 1851, from the environs of Cattaro (= Kotor), Montenegro, has long been considered as a putative synonym of either Apfelbeckia insculpta (L. Koch, 1867) or Acanthopetalum carinatum (Brandt, 1840) (Latzel 1884). Since no type material of Julus costulatus has been revealed in the ZMUM box, the species is bound to remain a nomen dubium (Stoev et al. 2008).

A careful search for type material has revealed two type series only: the holotype of Scolopendra pentagramma Motschoulsky, 1866 (ZMUM ρ7449) and 3 syntypes of Strongylosoma carinulata (recte: -tum) Motschoulsky, 1866 (ZMUM ρ2376), both species coming from unknown localities in Japan. As their original descriptions (Motschoulsky 1866) are anecdotal to realistically make these species recognizable (Pocock 1895, Kraepelin 1903), they have been completely neglected/omitted ever since (e.g. Attems 1914, 1937, Jeekel 1968, Nguyen and Sierwald 2013). Unfortunately, the existing types of both Scolopendra pentagramma and Strongylosoma carinulatum appear to be of too little value to reveal the identities of these species. Thus, both ends of the Scolopendra pentagramma holotype have been so badly destroyed that all that can be said is that it may well be a Scolopendra Linnaeus, 1758, but it is certainly not a Cormocephalus Newport, 1844, because it has tarsal spurs (J. Lewis, personal communication). NB: Only three species of Scolopendra are currently known to occur in Japan, Scolopendra morsitans Linnaeus, 1758, Scolopendra subspinipes (Leach, 1815) and Scolopendra multidens Newport, 1844 (P. Stoev, personal communication). In this case, Motschoulsky’s Scolopendra pentagramma, if identifiable, would anyway represent a junior synonym of one of the above three species.

Similarly, all 3 syntypes of Strongylosoma carinulatum (one, lacking a few caudalmost segments, is still pinned, the remaining two have been located among the debris at the bottom of the ZMUM box) are later juvenile instars of a paradoxosomatid millipede, thus being absolutely inapt for revealing the species’ identity. In other words, both Scolopendra pentagramma Motschoulsky, 1866 and Strongylosoma carinulatum Motschoulsky, 1866 are also doomed to remain nomina dubia.


To summarize, the little that remains of Motschoulsky’s myriapodological legacy in the collection of the Moscow Museum proves to be of very limited value. However, even the negative result is a result. Only one species of Diplopoda described by Motschoulsky, the Caucasian Hirudisoma roseum (Victor, 1839), is still in use, yet requiring a neotype designation, whereas the remaining few myriapod names he proposed are either nomina dubia or nomina nuda.


I thank cordially Mrs Lyudmila P. Grozdilova and the remaining staff of the library of the Zoological Institute in St. Petersburg, Russia for the great help they rendered during my bibliographical research on V. I. Motschoulsky’s published legacy. Special thanks go to John G. E. Lewis (Taunton, Somerset, UK) for giving his opinion on the identity of one of the relevant types, to Pavel E. Stoev (Sofia, Bulgaria) for a valuable pre-publication review of the manuscript, to Alessandro Minelli (Padova, Italy) for solving a technical problem, as well as to Aleksandr Sysoev (ZMUM) for taking the picture of Motschoulsky’s collection of Myriapoda housed in ZMUM. The portrait of V. I. Motschoulsky is reproduced upon a kind permission of KMK Scientific Press, headed by K. G. Mikhailov (ZMUM).

Attems C (1914) Die indo-australischen Myriopoden. Archiv für Naturgeschichte 80A: 1–398.
Attems C (1937) Myriapoda 3. Polydesmoidea I. Fam. Strongylosomidae. Das Tierreich 68: i-xxii + 1–300.
Jeekel CAW (1968) On the classification and geographical distribution of the family Paradoxosomatidae (Diplopoda, Polydesmida). Academisch Proefschrift (PhD Thesis), Rotterdam, privately published, 162 pp.
Jeekel CAW (1970) Nomenclator generum et familiarum Diplopodorum. A list of genus and family-group names in the class Diplopoda from the 10th edition of Linnaeus, 1758, to the end of 1957. Monografieën van de Nederlandse Entomologische Vereiniging 5: i-xii, 1–412.
Kobakhidze DN (1965) [A list of millipedes (Diplopoda) of SSR Georgia]. Fragmenta Faunistica 11(21): 390–398. [in Russian, summaries in Polish and German]
Kraepelin K (1903) Revision der Scolopendriden. Mitteilungen aus dem Naturhistorischen Museum in Hamburg 20: 1–276.
Krivokhatsky VA (2013) An adventurous life of Victor Ivanovich Motschulsky, described by himself. KMK Scientific Press, Moscow & St. Petersburg, 261 pp. [in Russian]
Latzel R (1884) Die Myriopoden der österreichisch-ungarischen Monarchie, 2. Hälfte. A. Hölder, Wien, 414 pp.
Lignau N (1911) Neue Beiträge zur Myriopodenfauna des Kaukasus. Annuaire du Musée Zoologique de l’Académie Impériale des Sciences de St. -Pétersbourg 16: 37–59.
Lohmander H (1936) Über die Diplopoden des Kaukasusgebietes. Göteborgs Kungl. Vetenskaps- och Vitterhets-Samhälles Handlingar, Ser. 5B, 5(1): 1–196.
Lokšina IE, Golovatch SI (1979) Diplopoda of the USSR fauna. Pedobiologia 19: 381–389.
Mikhailov KG (2013) History and natural history. Khimiya i zhizn 11: 44. [in Russian]
Mikhailov KG (2014) Natural history and motherland history. Priroda 2: 87–90. [in Russian]
Mikhailov KG, Golovatch SI (2014) Book Review: An adventurous life of Victor Ivanovich Motschulsky, described by himself. ZooKeys 371: 85–90. doi: 10.3897/zookeys.371.7028
Motschoulsky V de (1851) Relation de son voyage par l’Allemagne, en Afrique et Dalmatie. Bulletin de la Société Impériale des Naturalistes de Moscou 24: 592–596.
Motschoulsky V de (1853) Pétersbourg. Valaam. Etudes entomologiques 1853: 15–21.
Motschoulsky V de (1866) Catalogue des insects reçus du Japon. Bulletin de la Société Impériale des Naturalistes de Moscou 39: 163–200.
Nguyen DA, Sierwald P (2013) A worldwide catalog of the family Paradoxosomatidae Daday, 1889 (Diplopoda: Polydesmida). Check List 9(6): 1132–1353.
Pocock RI (1895) Report upon the Chilopoda and Diplopoda obtained by P. W. Bassett-Smith. Esq., Surgeon R. N., and J. J. Walker. Esq., R. N., during the cruise in the Chinese seas of H. M. S. ‘Penguin’, Commander W. U. Moore commanding. Annals and Magazine of Natural History, Ser. 6, 15: 346–372.
Stoev P, Sierwald P, Billey A (2008) An annotated world catalogue of the millipede order Callipodida (Arthropoda: Diplopoda). Zootaxa 1706: 1–50.
Victor T (1839) Insectes du Caucase et des provinces Transcaucasiennes recueillis et décrits par T. Victor. Bulletin de la Société Impériale des Naturalistes de Moscou 12: 44–67.