John Fatu Honored
By Harry G. Lee
     The October 7th issue of The Nautilus, America’s oldest and longest continuing malacological journal, featured a paper by D. L. Geiger* describing a new species of abalone found in the shallows around the islands of Tonga, Vanuatu, the Solomons, and the Mariannas. The species reaches six cm., is marked with muddy green, brown, and yellow-brown blotches, and has a light steel gray nacreous interior. Characteristically, strong knobby bumps decorate the shell’s dorsum. Geiger went on to describe and illustrate the animal’s soft parts as well (historically uncharacteristic for an abalone description). He compared the new species to the protean Haliotis varia Linnaeus, 1758.

Haliotis fatui

Haliotis fatui

     Years ago Harald Rehder had recognized specimens of an abalone collected by (now) Jacksonville Shell Club (JSC) member John Fatu near Tofua Is., Ha’apai Group, Tonga in April, 1971 belonged to an undescribed taxon. Dr. Rehder intended to name it in John’s honor, but he died before completing the task. For decades collectors (including a few JSC members) knew John Fatu’s abalone by Harald Rehder’s manuscript name (technically "not available" as it was a "nude name"). Now it is official: Haliotis fatui Geiger, 1999!

     We tip our hats to John, who undoubtedly has collected (and eaten) more specimens than any other malacologist and commend Dr. Geiger for commemorating John Fatu’s work and the initiatives of our late friend, Harald Rehder.

*Geiger, D. L., 1999. Description of Haliotis fatui new species (Gastropoda: Vetigastropoda) from the tropical western Pacific. Nautilus 113(3): 73-77. Oct. 7.