Alec Cameron - Family History

August 8, 2006
From: Melissa Hellwig

I was wondering if you could help me. My great-uncle Alec Cameron of Harwood Island, on the north coast of New South Wales, near Grafton, was an amateur naturalist in the 1930's-40's 50's?? His house was full of nudibranch specimens in jars >100, and he made numerous trips to the Great Barrier Reef, apparently with groups from the Australian Museum.

It is family lore that a specific species of nudibranch was named after him, found off the coast of Angourie.

I was wondering if you have any record at all of any contributions made to nudibranch taxonomy by Alec Cameron. I am sorry but I have no more specific information, am continuing to research his side of the family.

Melissa Hellwig

Hellwig, M., 2006 (Aug 8) Alec Cameron - Family History. [Message in] Sea Slug Forum. Australian Museum, Sydney. Available from

Dear Melissa,
Your family memories are correct. Here is a short obituary, written by Bob Burn, that appeared in Australian Shell News, the newsletter of the Malacological Society of Australasia.

Alexander Allen Cameron 1899-1973
Though A.A. Cameron was not a member of this or any other Society, his death on the 4th July 1973 at the age of 74 has deprived New South Wales of a great naturalist and collector who made significant contributions to the marine fauna of his home State. Alex. Cameron was born and bred in the Clarence River Valley not far from Grafton. His people were on the land and he too farmed, mainly sugar cane and maize on his property on Harwood Island in the lower reaches of the Clarence River.

At an early age he was the ever observant naturalist, and through a chance meeting with staff members of the Australian Museum on the Great Barrier Reef about 1930, gained an insight into the necessity of careful systematic collecting and observation. From this time on, he made large systematic collections from the coastline at the Clarence River Heads, sending crustaceans to Frank McNeill and Melbourne Ward, molluscs to Tom Iredale, and lamellarians and opisthobranchs to Joyce Allan.

From shells collected by Alex.Cameron, the eastern Australian cowrie Evanaria hirundo cameroni was described in 1939 by Tom Iredale.   In her 1947 paper on the opisthobranchs of the Clarence River Heads, Joyce Allan named a yellow dorid Archidoris cameroni for him and from the same area, a bright red dorid Noumea cameroni was named after him by Robert Burn in 1966.

Vale Alex.Cameron.

Robert Burn [Australian Shell News, 1973, vol 4, p, 12]

Of these three names I'm afraid the only one that survives is Archidoris cameroni, which we know today as Doris cameroni. If you look at that Fact Sheet you will see some photos of the animal.

The name Noumea cameroni Burn, 1966 was also based on specimens collected by your great-uncle. Joyce Allan mentioned it in her 1947 paper [asGlossodoris sp - Allan, 1947: p 445], but did not officially name it as a new species . I am afraid I was the one who decided Noumea cameroni was not a distinct species.  I consider it to be one of the colour varieties of Noumea haliclona. If you look at the top right photo on the Fact Sheet of that species, it is the very pink variety on the left of the photo.

The third species mentioned, Evanaria hirundo cameroni Iredale 1939 is also found in some books as Cypraea hirundo cameroni.  It is a cowry snail, but most scientists today do not consider it to be a distinct subspecies.

  • Allan, J. K. (1947) Nudibranchia from the Clarence River Heads, north coast, New South Wales. Records of the Australian Museum, 21(8): 433-463, pls. 41-43.
  • Burn, R. F. (1966) On three new Chromodoridinae from Australia (Opisthobranchia: Nudibranchia). The Veliger 8(3): 191-197.
  • Iredale, T. (1939) Australian Zoologist, 9(3): 3-4.
  • Rudman, W.B. (1983) The Chromodorididae (Opisthobranchia: Mollusca) of the Indo-West Pacific: Chromodoris splendida, C. aspersa and Hypselodoris placida colour groups. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, 78: 105-173.

Best wishes with your family history
Bill Rudman

Rudman, W.B., 2006 (Aug 8). Comment on Alec Cameron - Family History by Melissa Hellwig. [Message in] Sea Slug Forum. Australian Museum, Sydney. Available from

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