Sunday, May 10, 2015

Cannibalistic behavior in Ontholestes cingulatus? [Updated]

Few days ago a colleague brought six live specimens of Ontholestes murinus  cingulatus in a jar. I could not deal with them at that time so I let them be. The next morning there were five beetles in the jar and bits and pieces of a sixth one. I quick search on Google did not bring any hits on cannibalism in this species, but I would guess that this is probably rather common for carnivorous species trapped in a small space with no other food resources.

On an unrelated note, I could not find any records of O. murinus (which has its native range in Europe) from TN, at least not in iDigBio, GBIF or but of course that does not say much. So perhaps this is a first record for the state.  There are records for TN for O. cingulatus from the Smokies, but not from southern TN.

Update: I should point out that the photograph on the right is from a historical specimen (as evident by the "green rust" near the pin).

Update 2: Well, crap. I was wrong, It is not O. murinus but rather O. cingulatus. I was fooled by the dirt on the specimens and did not notice that their legs were bicolored instead of solid black as in the picture....

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Unsolicited advice to administrators

Here are my two cents: telling a (bright, charismatic) student in public that he/she is the best thing that will happen to this University in the years to come, makes the rest of the student body and (I would guess) the faculty feel like crap.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

New species, new characters

Scaponopselaphus diaspartos
I recently described a new species of Xanthopygina rove beetles in the Biodiversity Data Journal (I will write another post later to talk about that experience). The species is Scaponopselaphus diaspartos from Colombia. This is the second species in the genus, the first (S. mutator) described by Sharp long time ago (1876) in the genus Trigonopselaphus. The genus Scaponopselaphus was erected by Scheerpeltz (1972) when he realized that mutator was not similar to the other species in Trigonopselaphus.

The genus is rather easy to tell apart from other Xanthopygina rove beetles thanks to a unique morphological feature: the first tarsomere of the mesotarsus in males has spatulate setae. This is unheard of in other genera of Xanthopygines and that makes it a nice and easy diagnostic feature.

Mesotibia and mesotarsus of S. mutator. Arrow indicates the location of the
 spatulate tibia on mesotarsus. Scale bar = 0.68 mm. 

Spatulate setae are very common on the protarsi of rove beetles, but not so much on meso- or metatarsi.

The epithet of the new species (diaspartos) means "scattered" and refers to the distribution of the peg setae on the ventral side of the paramere. 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

What drives your productivity?

I was asked the other day by a colleague why/how I remain productive in this uneasy climate of limited funding/university support. My university would have been more than happy with 1-2 papers every other year instead of the typical 3-4 per year that I produce. One reason for my productivity is that I am really into my study organism (rove beetles) and that helps push things along. But, wait,  there is more: rejections. Somehow they fuel my productivity flame. I am not sure how many scientists are willing to admit this, but I am sure it is rather common. So here is an acknowledgement you will never see me writing in a paper but should be present in all of them: 

I thank the grant agencies, the journals and the institutions that have rejected me over the years. I could not have accomplished half of what I have done without those rejections.

Or as David Hull put it much more elegantly in the book Science as a process: 'Scientists acknowledge that among their motivations are natural curiosity, the love of truth, and the desire to help humanity, but other inducements exist as well, and one of them is to “get that son of a bitch”'.  

Monday, March 23, 2015

Copenhagen ZMUC vist

Just came back Denmark where I had a wonderful time visiting several friends and colleagues (Adam Brunke, Mariana Chani, Andrea Schomann and Alexey Solodovnikov) there. The visit was funded by an RCA grant from UTC and it was really great to spend a week just talking/working with rove beetles. I found many specimens that are going to be used in upcoming revisions and I also had the opportunity to examine the Fabricius collection for Xanthopygina rove beetle. Sometimes it is just nice to be able to spend a week looking at specimens without worrying about all the usual office / life things.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Lab logo

A glorious new lab logo designed by Ainsley Seago @americanbeetles.

If you want a T-shirt with the same design, these are available for sale here until Jan 31.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Twitter to the rescue

A short story on how twitter (and specifially Lu Musetti ‏@osuc_curator) really helped a lot with a project today, despite my obvious typo on the original tweet.

Head and pronotum of Triacrus dilatus
I have been working on a project to redescribed Triacrus dilatus Nordmann and at the same time we are doing some fancy allometry work with them. These are fascinating beasts because according to the literature they live (and attack) with paper wasps. Wassman (1902) pointed out that they live in the nests of Polybia vicina Sauss. and later Kistner (1982) in his monster chapter (222 pages long!) "The social insects' bestiary" refer to the wasp genus as Stenopolybia.

I have been trying to find out information about that wasp for a long time, but Google was not returning many results -- a clear indication that something was sketchy, but who am I to doubt Kistner, right?

But as shown above, the name Stenopolybia  is typo of the genus name Stelopolybia, which was synonymized by Carpenter (1999) with the genus Agelaia.

So, the correct name of the wasp is Agelaia vicina, a wasp used as a keystone species in southern Brazil and with its own wikipedia page. 

Now, who said again that Twitter is a waste of time for academics?