It’s always a happy day…

072_066_0400_cover…when the latest issue of The Coleopterists Bulletin arrives in my mailbox. On this occasion it was the December issue of Volume 66—nine papers and eight scientific notes filling 84 pages of beetle awesomeness. It’s pure elytral ecstasy! I presume I am like most subscribers—rapidly scanning the Table of Contents on the back cover to see if any deal directly with my preferred taxa. Yes! Two papers dealing with Buprestidae (jewel beetles), one on Cerambycidae (longhorned beetles), and one on Cicindelinae (tiger beetles)—a real bonanza. After that, a more cursory look through the rest of the Table of Contents to see what other papers look interesting enough to at least scan through.

For me the most interesting are the two Buprestidae papers, with Hansen et al. documenting new state records, larval hosts, and biological notes for 47 North American species and Westcott & Murray reporting the introduction into the U.S. of yet another Eurasian exotic (Trachys minutus) and its apparent establishment in Massachusetts. As the current “keeper” of distributional records and host plant associations for North American jewel beetles (along with Rick Westcott, Salem, Oregon), I will be busily updating my database over the next few days to reflect these new records. I am a great fan of “notes” papers such as these (and am, in fact, currently finishing a similar manuscript with co-author Joshua Basham, who is also a co-author on the Hansen et al. paper). However, I do have a few quibbles—Hansen et al. report Agrilus  quadriguttatatus as a new record for Tennessee, but it is already known from that state, and Cercis canadensis (eastern redbud) is reported as a new larval host for Anthaxia (Haplanthaxia) cyanella despite the prior records from that host by Knull (1920) and Hespenheide (1974). More puzzlingly, the authors record Agrilus lecontei celticola from locations in eastern Tennessee despite guidance from me on several occasions that this subspecies, while perhaps distinctive in Texas, transitions broadly across Louisiana and Mississippi  with the nominate subspecies. As such, material from eastern Tennessee cannot be regarded conclusively to represent this subspecies (and I remain unconvinced even that the subspecific distinction is warranted). Lastly, in recording Actenodes simi from Tennessee, the authors mention that the closest previous record is from Missouri with no specific locality mentioned (Fisher 1942), even though I recently recorded several specific locations for the species in eastern and southern Missouri (MacRae & Nelson 2003). The overall impression is that the authors are not fully versed in recent literature on Buprestidae and have instead relied exclusively on the recent Nelson et al. (2008) catalogue—known amongst buprestid workers to be incomplete and with errors—as the only source for determining the status of their records.

Among Cerambycidae, Raje et al. report the results of molecular analyses on two color forms of Sternidius alpha. This broadly distributed and highly variable species exhibits multiple color variants across its range, leading to the description of multiple subspecies that were eventually synonymized under the current name. Their analysis of the barcoding region of the cytochrome oxidase I gene, however, revealed three distinct clades among the two color forms, suggesting the potential for taxonomic significance. More work, of course, is needed from additional color morphs from different localities.

Finally, my friend Matt Brust and colleagues discuss the ovipositional behavior of numerous species of North American tiger beetles, unexpectedly finding that many oviposit only after digging some distance below the surface of the soil. This information is extremely valuable for those interested in rearing tiger beetles for description of larval stages, expanding the window of survey for species with limited temporal occurrence, and cross-breeding studies. To that end, and of greatest interest to me, they have included numerous observations from their own studies that have resulted in the development of successful protocols and rapid rearing of large numbers of larvae to adulthood.

cso 66-4Mco14.qxdActually, there is one more thing… For several years now the December issue, as a bonus, has been accompanied by the Patricia Vaurie Series Monograph as a supplement to that year’s volume. This year’s issue features a revision of the scarab genus Euphoria by Jesús Orozco, and although I have not studied it carefully it looks like a robust treatment of the group. Yes, I know that scarabs are not one of my primary interest groups, but show me a coleopterist that—regardless of the group they work on— does not stop and collect these gorgeous, colorful, flower-loving beetles whenever they encounter them and I’ll show you a coleopterist that is far too restrictive in their natural history interests! Based on examination of nearly 19,000 specimens from 67 collections, the work considers 59 valid species (ten of which are described as new) distributed throughout the Western Hemisphere. Complete with keys to species and, for each, synonymy, description, diagnosis, taxonomic history, natural history, temporal occurrence geographic distribution, and—of critical importance in my opinion—full data for all specimens examined, it is everything a good revision should be. Then there are the color plates—one full page for each species—with a large dorsal habitus view, closeups of the head, male genitalia, and color variants, a temporal distribution chart, and a map of its geographical distribution. Again, while I may not be a serious student of scarabs, you can bet that I’ll be going back through my holdings of Euphoria beetles and checking them to make sure they conform to this new standard of knowledge on the group.

REFERENCES:

Brust, M. L., C. B. Knisley, S. M. Spomer & K. Miwa. 2012. Observations of oviposition behavior among North American tiger beetle (Coleoptera: Carabidae: Cicindelinae) species and notes on mass rearing. The Coleopterists Bulletin 66(4):309–314.

Fisher, W. S. 1942. A revision of North American species of buprestid beetles belonging to the tribe Chrysobothrini. U. S. Department of Agriculture, Miscellaneous Publication 470, 1–275.

Hansen, J. A., J. P. Basham, J. B. Oliver, N. N. Youseef, W. E. Klingeman, J. K. Moulton & D. C. Fare. 2012. New state and host plant records for metallic woodboring beetles (Coleoptera: Buprestidae) in Tennessee, U.S.A. The Coleopterists Bulletin 66(4):337–343.

Hespenheide, H. A. 1974.  Notes on the ecology, distribution, and taxonomy of certain Buprestidae.  The Coleopterists Bulletin 27(4) [1973]:183–186.

Knull, J. N. 1920. Notes on Buprestidae with description of a new species (Coleop.). Entomological News 31(1):4–12.

MacRae, T. C. and G. H. Nelson. 2003. Distributional and biological notes on Buprestidae (Coleoptera) in North and Central America and the West Indies, with validation of one species. The Coleopterists Bulletin 57(1):57–70.

Nelson, G. H., G. C. Walters, Jr., R. D. Haines, & C. L. Bellamy.  2008.  A Catalogue and Bibliography of the Buprestoidea of America North of Mexico.  Coleopterists Society Special Publication No. 4, The Coleopterists Society, North Potomac, Maryland, 274 pp.

Orozco, J. 2012. Monographic revision of the American genus Euphoria Burmeister, 1842 (Coleoptera: Scarabaeidae: Cetoniinae). Coleopterists Society Monographs, Patricia Vaurie Series No. 11, 182 pp.

Raje, K. R., V. R. Ferris & J. D. Holland. 2012. Two color variants of Sternidius alpha (Say) (Coleoptera: Cerambycidae) show dissimilar cytochrome oxidase I genes. The Coleopterists Bulletin 66(4):333–336.

Westcott, R. L. & T. C. Murray. 2012. An exotic leafminer, Trachys minutus (L.) (Coleoptera: Buprestidae), found in Massachusetts, U.S.A. The Coleopterists Bulletin 66(4):360–361.

Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2013

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About Ted C. MacRae

Ted C. MacRae is a research entomologist by vocation and beetle taxonomist by avocation. Areas of expertise in the latter include worldwide jewel beetles (Buprestidae) and North American longhorned beetles (Cerambycidae). More recent work has focused on North American tiger beetles (Cicindelidae) and their distribution, ecology, and conservation.
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7 Responses to It’s always a happy day…

  1. James C. Trager says:

    The mention of cross-breeding studies caught my eye. Is there much of this going on for tiger beetles? What sorts of conclusions have been derived form them?

  2. Nice, Ted! Your comment “I am a great fan of ‘notes’ papers such as these…” called to mind an experience I had some years ago when I submitted a note to The Coleopterists Bulletin on death-feigning by Hippopsis lemniscata. One reviewer commented to the effect that “This sort of thing is garbage and has no place in our journal,” and the other reviewer wrote “This is exactly the sort of contribution we need more of!” Fortunately for me, the editor accepted and published the note (my only published contribution to cerambycid studies).

    • Prejudice against biological notes papers is rampant in taxonomic literature. There are those who value the information and those who don’t, but for some reason the latter think it appropriate to prevent access to such information by the former. How can one possibly justify devoting journal space to clarifying original spellings and authorship of named taxa but not recording the states were they occur, the host plants they utilize, and the behaviors they exhibit? It seems to me nothing more than taxonomic arrogance.

      • Well said. My note on thanatosis in Hippopsis has been cited by 7 other papers (none mine!), demonstrating that even an amateur’s observations may be found valuable and are worth publishing. (Which we have always known to be true in entomology, perhaps more so than in most other sciences.) I don’t know if my negative peer reviewer was a taxonomist or not. The taxonomists I have known (primarily other ichthyologists, like me) encourage natural-history publications by amateurs — although amateur taxonomic descriptions of new fishes are quite another matter; these tend to cause confusion, chaos, and instability of nomenclature. Fortunately, no amateur fish taxonomist has created nearly as many synonyms as Casey did in beetles!

        • One can find problem children in any discipline, and there are professionals who have wreaked just as much havoc as amateurs (e.g. Jan Obenberger in my own beloved Buprestidae!). On the whole however, the state of knowledge in insect taxonomy would be much worse were it not for the contributions of amateurs. Since you mention Casey, I will concede that he named far too many ‘individuals’, but I also think categorical disregard of his work, which some have urged, is neither fair nor warranted, and in fact his generic concepts have increasingly been adopted in recent years. All that aside, the taxonomic arrogance I speak of seems less directed at amateurs by professionals than by professionals interested strictly in nomenclatural/systematic matters at anybody—professional or not—who doesn’t see things the same way.

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