Saturday, October 6, 2012

Sometimes, you just gotta.

          Last year, as I was pinning specimens at the Bean Museum, I over heard Dr. Shawn Clark (Collection Manager) talking on the phone very pleasantly to a friend and very enthusiastic insect taxonomist/hobbyist Dan Cavan. I don't want to spend too much time describing Dan, but as he came in later that day I discovered we had a lot in common. He owned a private insect collection and had one of the largest personal collections of Chrysomelidae in the U.S. As well as this diverse, beautiful and enormous family, he had a good variety of Dynastinae (Rhinoceros Beetles), Lucanidae (Stag Beetles), and giant,colorful insects of all kinds from all around the world.

Shawn introduced me to Dan, and we discussed his recent collecting trip to Tamaulipas, Mexico. I soon learned he had a variety of Beetles and that he also traded insects from all around the world. I told him about my relatively small collection, and we later met up to exchange specimens. When he saw my newly developing collection, he was very generous and he willingly gave me a large number of species I still prize. Far more material than I could compensate with the few specimens I could afford to exchange. One such species is Homoderus mellyi. I just couldn't resist having a beast like this in my collection! This genus pertains to its own tribe, Homoderini. According to Wikispecies, this tribe has only three species represented; H. gladiator, H. mellyi and H. taverniersi. All of these are Africa endemic, this individual of H. mellyi was collected in Cameroon.

Homoderus mellyi Parry
40 mm, excluding mandibles

While studying little critters is very productive means of taxonomic progress, I can't help but sense an undermining idea among some entomologists. This idea is that appreciating some of the larger, and at first glance, prettier specimens has been considered cliche, or even shallow. Perhaps some associate this fascination with people who sell and purchase insects (thereby undoubtedly misusing taxa). I can honestly say, if it weren't for the more noticeable species, I would not of had a spark of interest that lead to burning passion for all nature, unbiasedly. I'm glad to say most naturalists/scientists (that I've met) genuinely enjoy nature unbiasedly.

Sadly, there are also those who couldn't care less to take the time to appreciate much more intricate taxa. The family I am most fond of is Carabidae, or Ground Beetles. This is a prime example of Insecta intricacy and diversity. It is the third largest family of Beetles (behind Curculionidae and Staphilinidae) and at the same time, it is one of the primitive insect groups. I became excited about this family when I first saw a member under a microscope. As Dr. Clark exclaims: "A small bug is a big bug under a microscope." What a fiend it was indeed! I also new that Carabids were extremely common, easy to find, and there was plenty of room for taxonomic growth in this family. Perfect for me. Still though, I enjoy treating my eyes every once in a while to Homoderus mellyi. ;)

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