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At first a physician, he taught zoology at the University of Naples. He wrote 126 papers on various subjects, principally entomology, and in 1846 served as president of the Accademia Pontaniana in Naples.
There has been a good deal of confusion over the publication details of his most important work, the Fauna del Regno di Napoli (full title: Fauna del Regno di Napoli, ossia, enumerazione di tutti gli animali che abitano le diverse regioni di questo regno e le acque che le bagnano), published over a long period of time, including posthumously, in collaboration with his son, Achille Costa. Taeger and Blank (1996; p. 253) state that for some of the work, Oronzio was merely the editor, Achille being the actual author, and whose name appears on the title page.
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