Chatenier: bio, portrait

Constant Chatenier (1849-1926) was a French botanist and conchologist. He was elementary school principal and he explored the plains and mountains of the Drome department. He worked as collaborator to the Flora of France, with the famous botanists Rouy & Foucaud. Some species had been described by him, particularly in the Rouy & Foucaud’s work, and some others had been dedicaced to him.


Chatenier was interested in local malacology. In 1888, he published a Catalogue des Mollusques terrestres et fluviatiles observés dans le département de la Drôme… at the same time of the appearance of a similar work of Gustave Sayn, and almost with the same title, ignoring one another!

He was influenced by Saint-Lager, who was a well-known botanist in Lyon, also a nomenclaturist. Saint-Lager proposed a “reform of the botanical nomenclature” in 1880 and published a “trial of the botanical and zoological nomenclature” in 1886. Chatenier applied the principles proposed by Saint-Lager to the names of species of molluscs, notably he rejected all substantive names in apposition for specific names and other linguistical problems, e. g. Helix ericeticola instead of H. ericetorum, Pupa aveniformis (vs P. avena), P. frumentiformis (vs P. frumentum), etc. In total, 24 names had been changed for grammatical “errors” in his Catalogue. He confessed that the reasons to change the nomenctature were ‘pre-emptive’ and concluded: “J’ose espérer qu’elles [les raisons] seront ratifiées par tous ceux qui n’ont pas pour la tradition un respect exagéré”. Chatenier judged that the priority rule was less important than grammatical rules.

In malacology, Chatenier described: Helix megalomphala Chatenier, 1888, Helix petrophila Chatenier, 1888 and some manuscript names: Moitessieria elegans Chatenier, Pupilla costulata Chatenier. He is dedicatee of a Helix chatenieri by Germain, 1905. Victor Piraud, director of the Muséum d’histoire naturelle de Grenoble, had been asked him to determine regional molluscs in the museum.

Chatenier C. 1888. Catalogue des Mollusques terrestres et fluviatiles observés dans le département de la Drôme. Bulletin de la Société de Sciences naturelles de la Drôme, (62 p.).
Sayn G. 1888-1889. Catalogue des Mollusques terrestres et fluviatiles du département de la Drôme. Bulletins de la Société malacologique de France 5: 121–184 (1888); 6: 67–81 (1889).

[1] Portrait: MHNGr archives (I’m grateful to Mrs Catherine Gauthier for access to the collections and Philippe Candegabe for the scan).


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