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The authors most frequently credited for the European discovery of the parasitoid life cycle are Antoni van Leeuwenhoek, John Ray and Antonio Vallisnieri around the year 1700. Many other European authors published works on entomology in the 17th century and mentioned insects that we now recognize as parasitoids. Most of them were supposed until recently not to have understood the parasitoid life cycle. After rereading much of the old literature, we suggest this supposition is correct for, among others, Aldrovandi, Goedaert, Malphighi, and Redi. However, Lister, Merian, and Swammerdam (with the help of the painter Marsilius) all arrived at the correct interpretation of insect parasitism after observing most or all life history stages. The first correct interpretation of parasitism that we can trace, but which does not include the critical observation of oviposition by the adult female, is that of Swammerdam in 1669. The first recorded observation of oviposition that we can find is by the painter Marsilius but described by Swammerdam in 1678. However, this observation was not published until 1737-1738 by which time van Leeuwenhoek's influential 1700-1701 description had rendered it obsolete. Provisionally, we thus suggest Jan Jacob Swammerdam (assisted by Otto Marsilius) should be credited with the description of the discovery of the parasitoid life cycle in Europe. © 2004 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Original publication




Conference paper

Publication Date





12 - 24