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Pio Fioroni 18 May 1933 - 5 October 2003
After obtaining his PhD in 1961, he became Portmann’s research assistant, and it was through him that Pio Fioroni’s connection to the marine laboratories at Roscoff and Banyuls-sur-mer and his studies of the development and reproduction of marine invertebrates began.
In 1964, Pio Fioroni published the first results on his studies on the nutrition of larval prosobranch gastropods together with his wife Esther. By 1966, he was the father of a family, and in this same year, his important monograph, “On the embryogenesis of the digestive tract and the transitory organs of prosobranch gastropods” (in German), secured his habilitation. This research had mostly been accomplished during long stays at the Laboratoire Arago in Banyuls. In 1968, he was promoted to assistant professor, and, in 1971, after two postdoctoral stays at the Universities of Utrecht and Cologne, the University of Münster offered him the position of a full professor and director of the Institute for Special Zoology.
Marine molluscs, especially prosobranch gastropods and cephalopods, became Pio Fioroni’s favourite research animals, but his studies also encompassed various morphological aspects of the development of decapod crustaceans and of coelenterates, using mainly using histological and ultrastructure techniques. He always kept a very special interest in the development of cephalopods arguing for their exceptional position among molluscs, and he also made a contribution to the systematics of this group with the erection of the Sepiolioidea. In 1974, together with Gudrun Sundermann, Pio Fioroni published a dissection manual on Loligo vulgaris; and, in 1978, a volume on the Cephalopoda in the series, “Morphogenesis of Animals” (both in German).
Throughout his career, Pio Fioroni published almost 150 articles and books. His diversity of interests and expertise are illustrated not only by the large variety of animal taxa he studied, but also by the wide scope of his publications. Already in 1967 he had begun to write reviews on the development of molluscs aiming at putting his knowledge into a much wider perspective of evolutionary biology and ecology. More than 25 voluminous papers appeared, establishing him as one of the most prominent representatives of comparative embryology of his time. He published several distinguished textbooks (all in German), e.g., Introduction to Embryology (1973), the precursor of General and Comparative Embryology of Animals (1987, 2nd edition in 1992). The books Introduction to Marine Zoology (1981) and Guide to Invertebrate Larvae of the Marine Plankton (1998) reflect his knowledge and enthusiasm for marine life.
During the last decade of his scientific career, Pio Fioroni became one of the pioneers of marine ecotoxicology and together with his collaborators published a number of important studies and reviews on tributyltin-induced imposex and intersex in prosobranch snails. Resulting from this new field of research he organized the 4th International Symposium on Littorinid Biology in September 1991 together with David Reid, under the auspices of the Malacological Society of London, choosing one of his favourite places by the sea for its venue, the Station Biologique at Roscoff. The contributors of this obituary were privileged to have been students of Pio Fioroni’s at Münster University where he had built up a large and active research group. His move to Münster clearly caused a major change in his and his family’s life, not just because it meant leaving Switzerland for more northerly latitudes. His position in Münster meant an enormous workload in administration and teaching. However, being an indefatigable and very well organized worker, Pio Fioroni was not intimidated. He loved to teach and he loved to be in close contact with his students. During all his years in Münster he taught an enormous number of courses, seminars and lectures, providing a major part of the curriculum in zoology both for graduate and undergraduate students. For more than 35 years Pio Fioroni led student excursions to Banyuls or Villefranche-sur-mer, marked by his lively sense of humour and savoir-vivre. Students returned from these excursions full of vivid impressions, not only because presentations had been transformed into fairy tales or performances with ”actors” disguised as animals, but also because of the enormous faunistic knowledge of the field biologist Pio Fioroni, who knew the benthic as well as the planktonic fauna of the French coasts so well. He liked to enliven his courses by funny surprises, singing, telling jokes or talking in verses for hours, but at the same time he was a man who valued discipline among his students. He expected punctuality and especially, a lack of diligence or respect for animals would infuriate him – however, he never bore a grudge longer than a day or two.
Pio Fioroni’s charming, amiable, generous, and scintillatingly witty manner left a deep impression on most people and especially on his students, not only as an extremely knowledgeable zoologist and teacher but also as a friend. He supervised more than 130 theses, leaving his students plenty of freedom to pursue their own interests, but always prepared to lend advice and guidance when needed. His PhD students affectionately called him ’Doktorvater’, the German equivalent for supervisor, since it best expressed their mutual relationship.
Former students and colleagues of Pio Fioroni’s, always like to recollect memories of stays in Banyuls, Roscoff and Villefranche together with Pio and his wife Esther, who shared his interest in marine life and often joined him during his visits to the sea. Besides the preparation of scientific illustrations, she also contributed to a number of joint publications. Both loved art and both had mastered the necessary techniques to produce their own artwork. Here too, Pio’s diversity and creativity resulted in an almost endless number of silhouettes, drawings, pictures, sculptures and collages. For the last-mentioned, many ordinary things collected during a walk, like nails, bottle caps or pieces of metal and wood were transformed into a piece of art.
When, in 1999, Pio Fioroni became professor emeritus and retired to the south of Switzerland he was – jokingly – afraid of becoming a hermit. Instead, he became a living proof that there is life after a successful academic career. Besides his artwork Pio kept up an enormous correspondence, staying in contact with his friends and many of them were happily received as guests in his open house. A grave illness struck him unexpectedly. He left us much too soon, leaving behind a deep void as a zoologist and as a friend.
1. Dr. Ruth Barnich and Dr. Dieter Fiege
2. Sektion Marine Evertebraten II, Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum, Frankfurt am Main.
3. Dr. Ulrike Schulte-Oehlmann and Dr. Jörg Oehlmann - Department of Ecology and Evolution
4. Johann Wolfgang Goethe University, Frankfurt am Main