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Teodor T. Nalbant - 1933-2011.

"The foundation of my love of science is my love of beauty" (Cyril Crossland) was Teodor Nalbant's motto for his scientific career. "These are simple words which are better understood only by those who dedicated years of their lives to the biological field" he said during the celebration of his 70th anniversary, while he had reached 50 years of activity within the scientific community.

Nalbant was born on 18th of December 1933, on the shore of the Black Sea, at Constants, Romania. Moving with his family to Tulcea in 1939, a decisive moment for his future profession and life plans began with the meeting of the Danube Delta where I had my first meeting with this unforgettable scientist. We did a field trip together in 2008 to the place where it had all begun for him. Prior we were invited for a seminar in Bucharest's "Grigore Antipa" National Museum where the monumental B n rescu - Nalbant collection with over 10,000 specimens, especially of the families Cyprinidae, Cobitidae and Gobiidae, is under the custody of the Museum. We also went together to the type locality of the endemic genus Romanichthys valsanicola and had a great time together. Two years later he came to visit me in Italy and we agreed to do a book together, about the cobitids and nemacheilids of the world and I got started with specimens I collected for him in Turkey and elsewhere in 2009. Unfortunately his health must have been deteriorating, I rarely heard from him. He passed away while I was on field trips in the Amazon on November 29th, 2011.

Nalbant's family wanted him to follow a medical career, but he succeeded in attending the Faculty of Biology from Clujand in the autumn of 1953, he met Petru Banarescu with whom he continuously shared, till Banarescu's end (1921-2009), his love of beauty and fishes, publishing together more than 40 papers, especially in the systematic, phylogeny and zoogeography of the fishes of the families Cyprinidae (Gobioninae) and Cobitidae. In February 1958 Nalbant graduated from the University of Bucharest, and then worked as a biologist at the Institute of Hydrotechnical Studies and Research (1959- 1961), followed by the Institute of Fisheries (1961-1970), where he became the senior scientist. Later he was employed by the National Museum of Natural History in Bucharest "Grigore Antipa" (1970-l975), where he was senior curator, in the Institute of Biological Sciences, Department of Taxonomy and Evolution. Nalbant published over 150 papers, first on the freshwater and marine fishes of Romania, then on the ichthyofauna from other geographical areas - his first paper appeared in 1956. He covered a very large spectrum of fields: systematics, morphology, speciation, ecology, ethology, zoogeography, paleontology, and other aspects of an applied nature.

But one of Nalbant's main concern, was the study of the ichthyofauna based on the material collected by Romanian and foreign expeditions. Within this context his studies resulted in very important discoveries in marine fishes from the Central and North Pacific, Eastern and North-Western tropical Atlantic, the Indian Ocean, and freshwater fishes from Central Africa, Afghanistan, the Himalayas, India, Iran, Turkey, and Cuba. Also his studies on fishes of the family Chaetodontidae were of great importance, from material mostly collected during the expeditions of the "Uranie", "Challenger", "Albatross", "Galathea", and "Noona Dan".

As a result of his studies, he discovered and described, alone or in collaboration a new cobitid subfamily (Vaillanelinae Nalbant, B n rescu, 1997 - Cobitidae), and an impressive number of taxa whose illustrations point out not only his talent in drawing (sample below) but also in accurate observations. His descriptions include 23 new genera and subgenera, and 58 species and subspecies including a blind fish, Lucifuga simile. Nalbant contributed to many international publications by writing the chapters on the families Cobitidae and Chaetodontidae. He participated in long lasting expeditions as in the North-West Atlantic Ocean (in 1967 and 1969) and along the West African coasts (1969), as well as in Romanian expeditions (one with me) and one to the coast of Tanzania resulting in the discovery and the description of numerous new genera and species.

Nalbant always correlated the outer morphological features with those of the inner morphology, of ecology, ethology and of zoogeography which was and is very important for a better understanding of species. Something all ichthyologists should do. The genus Nalbatichtlzys Schultz 1967, as well the subgenus Nalbantius Mauge & Bauchot, 1984 (later given generic status), Schistura nalbarzti Mirza & B n rescu, 1979, and the cumacean crustacean Cyclaspis nalhanti Petrescu, 1998, immortalized this amazing scientist and certainly no ichthyologist or loach-lover will ever forget this humble and very natural Romanian. Farewell Theo.
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Author:Bleher, Heiko
Publication:aqua: International Journal of Ichthyology
Date:Jan 15, 2012
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