The first issue of the Journal of The Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom (JMBA), Vol. I, no.1 (1887) was edited by E. Ray Lankester, the first President of the MBA, it contained a list of governors, founders and members of the MBA, an account of the formation of the Association and a detailed description of the building, with floor-plans, as well as an account of the local fishing industry and fishing grounds, with a “fishing map” of Plymouth Sound.

Vol. I, no.2 (1888) provided a report of the opening ceremony of the building, substantial lists of the marine flora and fauna of Plymouth Sound, an account of some local fishes and their eggs, three reports of the recent work of existing marine biological organisations in Scotland and Liverpool, and a catalogue of the early MBA Library. After the appointment of the first Director, G. C. Bourne in June 1888, the Director became responsible for editing the JMBA. Bourne wrote that the Journal was intended “to supply scientific information in an easily comprehensible form to those who are interested in marine fisheries as well as accounts of animal or vegetable morphology” and will contain “abstracts of the scientific work done by the naturalists hiring tables in the Laboratory, notes and correspondence from other fishery and marine stations and abstracts of the most important results obtained by the fisheries commissioners of various Governments”. 

The first two numbers of the Journal (1887-1888) became known as the “Old Series”. Vol. 1 of the New Series (1889-90), with a larger page size, mainly contained the publication of new research. Twenty authors contributed notes and papers on topics such as the nudibranch fauna, marine algae, planktonic copepods, detailed descriptions and illustrations of the eggs and larvae of various local fishes. The JMBA was a “house journal” for the MBA, publishing mainly papers from scientists working full-time or as visitors at the Laboratory, until the late 1960’s. 

JMBA papers have influenced many fields of marine research, for example introduction of new sampling methods, descriptions of the marine ecosystem, culture of marine organisms, records of anthropogenic and environmental change, overfishing, and pollution studies, particularly on the toxic effects of tributyl-tin in anti-fouling paints and of heavy metals. One of the most highly cited early papers has been J.H.Orton’s 1920 “Sea- temperature, breeding and distribution of marine animals”, still relevant in the present time of awareness of climate warming. 

The first issues of the JMBA cost 1 shilling, equivalent to £6.45 today after inflation! This compares with a cost to members today of £7.50 per issue for the printed copy. However this is good value since the increases in page numbers per issue, in page size to A4, smaller margins and type mean that each issue now contains nine times the amount of information.

“As a learned society journal, the JMBA continues to support and serve the marine biological community by disseminating fundamental research in marine biology” says MBA deputy director Matt Frost. After 100 volumes the JMBA is now more diverse than ever, integrating research on marine environmental health alongside human health and well-being, and accepting submissions from all around the world.

Read the 100th volume here.

Further reading

Orton, J. H. 1920. Sea-temperature, breeding and distribution in marine animals. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom 12:  339-366.

Dando, P. R.  and Southward, E. C. (submitted) The history of the Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom  and the influence of the publication on marine research. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom 


Feb 19, 2020 By MBA Comms