An Inordinate Fondness #13

Ready for some beetle blogging? February is an appropriate month for The Dispersal of Darwin to host An Inordinate Fondness, for each February supporters of science and reason celebrate the birth of Charles Darwin (1809-1882) on the 12th. This year, he turned 202. Learn more about Darwin Day, and become a Friend of Charles Darwin, too. I specifically requested posts for AIF relating to Darwin and beetles or other figures in the history of science who worked on beetles. While that call for specific posts was largely unanswered, there are plenty of beetles on blogs to enjoy, and I’ll share some Darwin-related images from Flickr!

Competitive Beetle Collecting

From the exhibit Since Darwin: The Evolution of Evolution at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum

Dave Hubble’s ecology spot – Rhinoceros Beetles in Britain? Well, yes and no…: “Last night, over a vodka or two, a Russian friend of mine asked me whether we had Rhinoceros Beetles in Britain – we got there after chatting about how his small daughter was interested in bugs. My answer was along the lines of ‘no, but…’ and shows how the use of non-scientific (vernacular) names can be problematic i.e. it all depends what you mean by ‘rhinoceros beetle’.”

The Dispersal of Darwin – “Captured by C. Darwin, Esq”: “Darwin worked tirelessly in his home outside of London. Down House became a “country house” laboratory for his scientific endeavors, and he utilized many areas of the house and its grounds for his experiments. Yet while he worked away on his ‘one long argument,’ all he really wanted to do was get outside. To the entomologist John Lubbock, also Darwin’s neighbor, he wrote in 1854: ‘I do not know whether you care about Beetles, but for the chance I send this in a Bottle, which, I never remember having seen, though it is excessively rash to speak from a 26 year old remembrance. Whenever we meet you can tell me whether you know it.— … I feel like an old war-horse at the sound of the trumpet, when I read about the capturing of rare beetles— is not this a magnanimous simile for a decayed entomologist. It really almost makes me long to begin collecting again.'”

MObugs – Darkling Beetle: “Darkling beetles in the family Carabidae Tenebrionidaeare ( Thanks Ted for catching my faux pas) one of the most common beetles in the pet trade. These larger beetles are called Zophobas morio and the larvae are called Superworms. They are native to Central and South America, but made their way into the United States because of their large size and easy to rear nature.”

beagle-beetle

Old book plus beetle specimen

Beetles in the Bush – Featured Guest Photo – Dromica kolbei: “Although I have not collected this genus myself, I recognized it instantly as a member of such based on specimens and images I have seen. Carabidae of the World contains fine images of a number of species in this genus, of which Dromica kolbei (W. Horn, 1897) seems to be a pretty good match. However, more than 170 species are currently included in the genus, and while a modern revision is in progress (Schüle and Werner 2001; Schüle 2004, 2007), the bulk of the genus still remains to be treated. As a result, this really should be considered as just a provisional ID.”

Beetles in the Bush – Recent literature – The Coleopterists Bulletin: “I returned to the office this week after spending two weeks in Brazil to find the December 2010 of The Coleopterists Bulletin in my inbox. I don’t think there is another journal that I look forward to more eagerly than this one (with the possible exception of CICINDELA) – with each issue, I know that regardless of whether it contains any papers in my priority groups of interest (jewel beetles, longhorned beetles, and tiger beetles), it will nevertheless contain well-written articles presenting results of high-quality research on nothing but beetles – pure elytral ecstasy!”

Young Darwin Statue by Anthony Smith, Christ's College, University of Cambridge

I love this beetle adorning part of a statue of a young Darwin in Cambridge, England

Beetles in the Bush – Brazil Bugs #3 – Gorgulho Enorme!: “The second night at the hotel on the outskirts of Campinas (São Paulo, Brazil), I found this enormous weevil laying on the ground underneath some windows. It was dead but completely relaxed and in perfect shape. I wondered if it had been attracted to lights in the window the previous evening and flown there as its “last hurrah.” This beast of a weevil – measuring a good 30mm from the tip of the snout to the apex of the elytra – immediately brought to my mind giant palm weevils of the genus Rhynchophorus (Coleoptera: Curculionidae).”

MYRMECOS – Friday Beetle Blogging: Army Ant Associates: “Last year army ant guru Carl Rettenmeyer posthumously published a paper documenting the tremendous diversity of animals associated with Eciton burchellii. Over 500, in fact. Eciton burchellii has a larger known entourage than any other species of animal. Although Eciton‘s associates are the best documented, all army ant species have them. Ant colonies represent a tremendous concentration of resources, and animals that have figured out how to subvert the ants’ communication systems gain access to rich stores of food.”

Skepchick – Shellac: it’s a bug AND a feature!: “For some reason, both Cochineal and Lac scales are often reported as beetles. I’ve seen this mistake made on the Straight Dope, among other places. Scale insects don’t undergo complete metamorphosis as a beetle would, so they don’t have larvae and pupae. In fact, scales have their own special freaky system of growth and reproduction in which the females loose their legs and turn into a sort of tiny insect Jabba the Hutt, and even tinier males fertilize them and die.”

Beetle activity (play God!) (at APS' Dialogues with Darwin exhibit)

Beetle activity at the American Philosophical Society’s exhibit Dialogues with Darwin in Philadelphia

MYRMECOS – Friday Beetle Blogging: Agra: “Agra is a tree-dwelling predator found from Texas south to Argentina. It belongs to the family Carabidae, the ground beetles, which is unfortunate as most Agra are canopy species found nowhere near the ground… I photographed this handsome specimen at the Maquipucuna cloud forest reserve on Ecuador’s western Andean slopes.”

Ecotrope – How bark beetles are pitting the U.S. vs. Canada: “The bark-eating beetles have been ravaging forests in British Columbia – with tens of millions of forestland acres laid to waste. Scientists worry that global warming will continue to fuel beetle outbreaks by keeping winter temperatures just high enough to allow the beetles to survive the winter and reproduce, where in the past severe cold would have killed them off. At issue is how the BC government and timber industry have handled the damaged trees – and the not-so damaged ones – on public lands.” (See a related video from Oregon Public Broadcasting.)

LabSpaces – 2 new species of ‘leaping’ beetles discovered: “Only five species of these so-called ‘flea’ beetles, out of a global total of 60, had been found to date in New Caledonia, in the western Pacific. A three-year study has now enabled Spanish researchers to discover two new herbivorous beetles – Arsipoda geographica and Arsipoda rostrata. These new beetles hold a secret – they feed on plants that the scientists have still not found on the archipelago.”

Charles Darwin's beetles collection

Darwin beetles at the zoology museum in Cambridge, England

Catalogue of Organisms – Ground Beetles for Today: “The subject of today’s post is a group of ground beetles (Carabidae) that has been treated in the past as the subfamily Zuphiinae, but seems to now be more commonly treated as a supertribe Zuphiitae within the Harpalinae. Whatever their appropriate formal name, the zuphiites are distinguished by a relatively long and thick scape (the first major segment of the antennae) and spination on the first stylomere of the female’s ovipositor; the clade is also supported by molecular data.”

Kele’s Science Blog – Solving the “adaptive recursion” in Jamaican click beetles (I) & The genetics and phenotypes of the Jamaican click beetle (Adaptive Recursion II): “In my last post I started a new short series on some biologists’ attempts to solve what they call an “adaptive recursion” or in other words, to know the full story of a trait from the bottom level of the gene to the top levels of ecology and differential fitness. Ecological descriptions frequently become “just-so stories” – claims of adaptations and how they arose but with little evidence. All levels of detail should be known before any such arguments can be proclaimed and this is exactly what Uwe Stolz, Jeffrey Feder, and Sebastian Velez, and others are attempting to do with the bioluminescence of Jamaican click beetles.”

Beetles in the Bush – Calm waters, frenzied beetles: “Lazy waters are the domain of whirligig beetles (family Gyrinidae). We encountered this ‘raft’ of beetles in a sheltered pool near the shore of the North Fork River while hiking the Ozark Trail last October. These frenzied little beetles live almost exclusively on the surface of the water, where they feed on organisms or scavenge debris in their famously and erratically conspicuous aggregations. Such behavior might make them seem vulnerable to predation, but in actuality the reverse is true. Beetles in rafts benefit from the increased number of eyes that can better scan the environment for potential threats than can individual beetles (Vulinec and Miller 1989), and the larger the raft the more efficiently this occurs.”

Young darwin's beetle collection

Page from The Curious Mind of Young Darwin (see: http://bit.ly/gqKur9)

Beetles in the Bush – Diversity in Tiger Beetle Larval Burrows: “To the uninitiated, tiger beetle burrows might seem nothing more than a simple hole in the ground – anything could have made it. However, with experience one becomes able to distinguish tiger beetle larval burrows almost instantly from burrows made by other ground-burrowing organisms. The most common type of burrow is recognized by a combination of characters – almost perfectly circular except for a slight flattening on one side that gives the burrow a faint D-shape, and with the edge smoothly beveled. This is your classic tiger beetle burrow and, for most U.S. species of Cicindela and related genera, averages ~5-6mm in diameter for 3rd instar larvae (tiger beetle burrows are most often observed at 3rd instar, since it is this final instar in which the larva spends the majority of its time and the burrow becomes most noticable).”

LabSpaces – Ginger is key ingredient in recipe for conserving stag beetles: “The humble ginger root could be the key to conserving the UK’s largest and most spectacular terrestrial beetle – the stag beetle. Ecologists from Royal Holloway, University of London and the University of York have developed a series of new methods to monitor stag beetle numbers – including ginger lures to trap adult beetles and tiny microphones to detect sounds made by the larvae in their underground nests. Conservation efforts have been hampered until now because ecologists lacked a reliable way of monitoring stag beetle numbers.”

Beetles in the Bush – “All the better to see you with, my dear!”: “Cicindela formosa (the big sand tiger beetle) is a not uncommon species that occurs across much of North America east of the Rocky Mountains in deep, dry, open sand habitats. It is absent in Appalachia and much of the Interior Highlands, understandable given the rarity of deep sand habitats on these elevated landforms; however, its absence across much of the southeastern coastal plain as well as south and west Texas, despite the widespread presence of apparently suitable habitat, is not easily explained.”

descent of man

Page from Darwin’s 1871 The Descent of Man (see: http://bit.ly/ehg3qE)

Bug Eric –Merchant Grain Beetle: “Even entomologists are not immune to pest insects in their homes. We are just a little more fascinated than we are revolted. So, when I found a tiny beetle crawling on the bathroom counter of my Tucson apartment on October 20, 2010, I naturally wanted to know more about it. I thought I had a good idea of its identity, but I was wrong about the species.”

Fall to Climb – Forgotten Photo Friday: Otiorhynchus ligustici – Alfalfa Snout Beetle: “Native to Europe, accidentally introduced to North America in the late 1800′s, declared a pest in New York in 1933, and spread to to Canada in the mid 60′s. It has only been detected in a few towns in eastern Ontario. It is supremely pesty to alfalfa plants everywhere. But, although it is pesty, it is a VERY BIG AND AWESOMELY SCALY BEETLE! And, since it is a Curculionid, it looks like Gonzo. They all do. So I love it, just a little bit.”

What’s Bugging You? – A Rare Beetle New to Virginia: “My insect survey at the VCU Rice Center continues to reveal species that are rarely collected and/or newly recorded for the Commonwealth of Virginia. While sorting through dozens of trap samples containing thousands of insects, I recently discovered three specimens of a rarely collected false click beetle (Eucnemidae), Xylophilus crassicornis. This collection represents the first records for the genus and species in Virginia.”

Cambridge 800 years - Darwin hunting beetles

Display for University of Cambridge’s 800th anniversary

cicindela – Ellipsoptera marginata: “One of the rather unique tiger beetles occurring in Virginia is Ellipsoptera marginata. I photographed this species back in late June of 2009 at Bethel Beach Natural Area Preserve where I was assisting in a survey for Habroscelimorpha dorsalis dorsalis.”

The Atavism – Sunday Spinelessness – Vanuatu scarab beetles: “As promised, it’s time to add a few tropical invertebrates to the mix of more temperate bugs I usually talk about here. Let’s start by redressing a bit of an imbalance in these Sunday Spinelessness posts. Up until now I’ve only written two posts about beetles, which something of an under-representation since about a quarter of all described species are beetles. I see plenty of beetles around our garden and in my travels around Dunedin, but few of them are large enough, or sufficiently cooperative, for me to get decent photographs. I had no such problem in Vanuatu.”

The Atavism – Sunday Spinelessness – Hadda beetle: “Time for another tropical beetle from Vanuatu, and what could be more charming than a ladybird? Or its absurdy spikey larvae?”

New Charles Darwin exhibit--my favorite part

Display at the natural history museum at the University of Kansas, Lawrence

Nature Closeups – Colorful Snout Beetle: “I really love the colors on this snout beetle. Check out the detail. The image is not quite as sharp as I’d like, but just look at all those little colorful scales.” & Reddish Tortoise Beetles: “There were quite a few of these reddish tortoise beetles feeding on this banana plant.” & Mating Snout Beetles: “These beetles are tiny. Each one is only a few millimeters long.”

Dave Hubble’s ecology spot – Cretaceous Crato creature!: “Last year, I was mooching around some fossil sites online and found some insects for sale. They were from an old collection and had originally been collected from the Crato Formation in Brazil. Many interesting specimens had already been sold, but among those remaining was a rather nice little beetle (according to the seller) around 12.5mm long excluding appendages. Such items are popular with collectors (including plenty with more money than me), but this one had been broken in half and neatly glued. So, still complete, but less popular with collectors and hence more affordable. Result! I bought it…”

The Sam Wells Bug Page – Phloeodes diabolicus: “Ironclad beetles are the tanks of the insect world. They are famous (or infamous) for walking away after being stepped on. There are even reports of species being run over by cars without apparent harm. To an entomologist, they are notorious for the challenge of getting an insect pin through their thick skin (cuticle). What usually happens is the first attempt bends the pin. The second attempt bruises the thumb and forefinger to the bone. And then with a combination of anger and grit (and with two hands gripping the shaft) the pin is forced through the reinforced exoskeleton. With luck it has gone through straight and without popping the legs off on the other side. Very often it doesn’t – as verified by any number of oddly pinned specimens stuck to the bottom of unit trays in the museums of the world.”

Young Charles Darwin, Darwin Exhibition @ Gulbenkian

Young Darwin observes a beetle on his hand at the Museu Calouste Gulbenkian in Lisbon, Portugal

cicindela – Tetracha virginica: “This toothy specimen is Tetracha virginica, a fairly large species (16-25mm), widespread in the eastern United States. This species is a deep oily metallic green; largely active at night when it nimbly forages for prey and is often attracted to lights. During the day it can be found taking shelter under miscellaneous ground cover.”

And finally, for any biologists or naturalists out there who go in the field to collect beetles, take note. Here’s a list of naturalists (Wall of the Dead) who have lost their lives while investigating nature. Of particular interest:

Bečvář, Stanislav (1938-1997), Czech entomologist, shot dead, age 59, by soldiers in Laos while collecting beetles. Here’s a detailed account of the incident. His son of the same name, also an entomologist, was seriously wounded in the attack but survived and continues to do field work.

Brodsky, Otakar (19??- 1986), Czech coleopterist, died of a heart attack, age unknown, while collecting Cleridae beetles in a rainforest in Vietnam. He was reportedly seated under a tree with his collecting equipment in his hands, and his colleagues didn’t immediately realize he was dead.

And there you have it, the 13th edition of An Inordinate Fondness. The next edition of AIF will be hosted at Wandering Weeta some time mid-March. Send your submissions directly to the host there (email), or through the submission form.

6 thoughts on “An Inordinate Fondness #13

  1. Hi Michael – very nice, thanks for putting this together. The Darwinesque imagery is a nice touch, and there are actually a few bloggers writing about beetles that I didn’t know about – I’ll be checking them out.

  2. Pingback: AIF #13 at The Dispersal of Darwin « An Inordinate Fondness

  3. Pingback: Carnivalia — 2/16 – 2/22 | Sorting out Science

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s