During his first visit to England in 1818, Georges Cuvier studied a collection of fossils from the Miocene of Öningen (Baden, Germany) lately purchased by the British Museum. Cuvier who had proven the existence of a giant salamander in Öhningen fauna, tried to refute the commonly accepted idea that the fossil fishes from this locality belonged to recent species still living in German and Swiss freshwaters. The Cuvier’s interest in this question is testified by a collection of drawings representing Öhningen fishes found in the Central Library of the Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle (Paris). The specimens depicted in these drawings originate from the former cabinet of Johann Conrad Ammann (1724-1811), doctor in Schaffhausen (Switzerland), based on the testimony of Louis Agassiz who studied these drawings in Paris in 1832 and the original fossils during his first visit to London in 1834. These drawings, executed in 1821 and 1822 by two talented British natural history illustrators of that time, John Curtis (1791-1862) and Thomas Lewin (1774-after 1840), were sent to Cuvier by Charles Dietrich Eberhard König (1774-1851), curator at the British Museum. These drawings are an evidence of Cuvier’s willingness to study fossil fishes, a project he finally gave up just before his death in favor of Louis Agassiz. They were also used to rediscover in the Natural History Museum, London, several teleostean specimens from the Ammann’s collection whose historical origin was previously unknown.
History of Palaeontology, Natural History Museum, London, Georges Cuvier, Charles König, Johann Conrad Ammann, John Curtis, Thomas Lewin, Öhningen, Miocene, Teleostei