Marion Nixon

From the CIAC Newsletter, Dec 2012, by Louise Allcock:

Marion Nixon worked for most of her life at University College London (UCL). Cephalopods dominated her research and during almost 40 years of publishing she collaborated with some of cephalopod biology’s biggest names, her first publication being with Andrew Packard in 1964, her last with the late JZ Young in 2003. During this time she published more than 50 papers and book chapters. Marion became interested in the buccal apparatus of cephalopods early in her research career, studying the beak and radula of Octopus vulgaris in a series of papers in the late 1960s and early 70s. Her expertise was not limited to macrostructure and diet, but extended to the proteins that comprised these structures, and the tissues that secrete them. She even compared structures in recent taxa to those in fossils. Although O. vulgaris formed a focus for her work, she published on many other taxa: cirrates, cranchiids, and sepiids to name a few. Her vast knowledge across multiple taxa made her chapters on systematic characters in cephalopods so valuable to the CIAC 1988 workshop volumes.

Marion worked closely with JZ Young at UCL’s Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine. Their 2003 book, The Brains and Lives of Cephalopods, was a 30-yr labour of love dating from an idea borne around the time of JZs retirement in 1974. In a review in Journal of Plankton Research, Andrew Packard described the book as “a scholarly and thoroughly readable treatise covering, soberly, genus by genus and brain by brain, senses and effectors, much of what is known about 125 of the 140 extant cephalopod genera…. The achievement is a tribute to all concerned”. The book’s publication 6 yrs after JZ’s death is particularly a tribute to Marion’s determination.

Her early involvement in cephalopod biology meant that Marion was present at the ‘birth’ of CIAC. She was no stranger to gatherings of cephalopod biologists having edited, together with John Messenger, the proceedings of a 1975 workshop on cephalopod biology held at the Zoological Society of London. When CIAC was formed in 1983, Marion served as the first Newsletter editor. She held this post from 1983 until 1988. She contributed to the ‘larval and Juvenile Cephalopod’ volume resulting from a CIAC workshop as well as the 1998 systematics volumes. From 1995 -1997 she served on Council. The legacy of her research will belong enduring and her achievements are rightly celebrated with a CIAC Lifetime Achievement Award.

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