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Patuxent Wildlife Research Center


Edgar A. Mearns

Edgar Alexander Mearns was born on September 11, 1856  to Alexander and Nancy Reliance Mearns née Clarswell in Highland Falls, New York and was a notable American ornithologist and field naturalist. Mearns attended the Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons, graduating in 1881. The same year that he graduated, he married Ella Wittich of Circleville, Ohio, and the couple had two children, a son and daughter. Their son died when he was 26 from unknown causes.

From 1882 to 1899 he served the military service as a surgeon and naturalist. During that time, Mearns was stationed at three military posts on the Texas border, detailed by the War Department to act as a medical officer for the International Boundary Commission. This commission, established in the 1880’s, served to relocate the existing frontier line between United States and Mexico. The scientific work included a biological survey of the Mexican boundary region. From 1892 to 1895, Mearns surveyed more than seven hundred miles of the boundary, transversing the entire border along with his assistants, including all of Texas, collecting plants and animals and recording detailed natural history information. In 1907, Mearns published Mammals of the Mexican Boundary of the United States, recording his observations and scientific information. He contributed more than thirty thousand plant and animal specimens to the National Museum, including seven thousand mammals and described fourteen taxa of Texas mammals from throughout the borderlands region.

Mearns was a co-founder of the American Ornithologists' Union in 1883. He scientifically described several birds and other animals such as: the Taita Thrush, the Apo Sunbird, the Boran Cisticola, the Chihuahuan Grasshopper Mouse, and the Rufous-headed Tailorbird. Animal species like Mearns' Pocket Gopher (Thomomys bottae mearnsi) or the Banded rock lizard (Petrosaurus mearnsi) were named after him.
Edgar A. Mearns died November 1, 1916 in Washington D.C.

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