Tuesday, January 4, 2011

A walk around the Colosseum

The Amphitheatrum Flavium, better known as the Colosseum, is an iconic Roman era building in the centre of Rome. Ravaged by natural phenomena and looters throughout the centuries, it still stands towering above the city, and offers a wonderful opportunity to admire the architectural and engineering prowess of the ancient Romans.

In 1643, far before the advent of Linnaean taxonomy, a gent by the name of Domenico Panaroli decided to publish an inventory of the plants found inside the Colosseum after noticing several exotic (mainly North African) species inside and around it, resulting in the tome Plantarum Amphytheatralium Catalogus. Nowadays, the list of species from the Colosseum has grown to 684 species of plants (Caneva, 2003).

A humidity-loving moss, bearing sporangia (fruiting bodies) on stalks

Adiantum capillusveneris L., also found in Malta

Cymbalaria muralis G. Gaertn., B. Mey. & Scherb.

Of course, the ample vegetation offers much cover for my favourite invertebrates - snails. The most common ones present in soil were Eobania vermiculata (Müller, 1774) and a species of Cernuella (I have not yet decided which this is out of the confusing trio of C. virgata (Da Costa, 1778), C. cisalpina (Rossmässler, 1837) and C. neglecta (Draparnaud, 1805)). Later on, a few specimens of Papillifera bidens (Linnaeus, 1758) and Xerotricha apicina (Lamarck, 1822) were encountered amongst the ruins.

Cernuella sp.

Xerotricha apicina (Lamarck, 1822)

On a totally unrelated note, here's one of the modern day inhabitants of the Colosseum:


Caneva, G., 2003. The Colosseum's use and state of abandonment as analysed through its flora. International Biodeterioration & Biodegradation, 51: 211-219.
Panaroli, D., 1643. Jatrologismi sive medicae observationes quibus additus est in fine Plantarum Amphytheatralium Catalogus. Typis Dominici Marciani, Rome.

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