New Dryocosmus Giraud species – our latest open access publication

When it rains it pours. Here’s the latest open access publication, from István, former lab member Szabina Schwéger, and their colleagues!

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Galls of Dryocosmus taitungensis. Photo by C.-T. Tang. Source: 10.3897/jhr.53.9890

Tang C-T, Mikó I, Nicholls JA, Schwéger S, Yang M-M, Stone GN, Sinclair F, Bozsó M, Melika G, Pénzes Z (2016) New Dryocosmus Giraud species associated with Cyclobalanopsis and non-Quercus host plants from the Eastern Palaearctic (Hymenoptera, Cynipidae, Cynipini). Journal of Hymenoptera Research 53: 77-162. DOI: 10.3897/jhr.53.9890

Abstract.—Our knowledge about gall wasps associated with the diverse East Asian oaks, Castanopsis and Cyclobalanopsis, is limited due to the lack of extensive field studies. Here, we describe twelve new oak gall wasp species, Dryocosmus cannoni Schwéger & Tang, D. caputgrusi Tang & Schwéger, D. crinitus Schwéger & Tang, D. harrisonae Melika & Tang, D. hearni Melika &Tang, D. hualieni Schwéger & Tang, D. konradi Tang & Melika, D. liyingi Melika & Tang, D. moriius Tang & Melika, D. quadripetiolus Schwéger & Tang, D. salicinai Schwéger & Tang, and D. taitungensis Tang & Melika, from Taiwan and mainland China. Seven newly described species induce galls on Quercus subgenus Cyclobalanopsis and five on other Fagaceae genus, Castanopsis. All of the new species concepts are supported by morphological and molecular data. We provide descriptions, diagnoses, host associations for the new species and an illustrated identification key to Eastern Palaearctic Dryocosmus species. We represent natural language phenotypes in a semantic format supported by biomedical ontologies to increase the accessibility of morphological data.

Pteroceraphron Dessart new to the USA – our latest open access publication

Here’s another product of our NSF ARTS grant, albeit not quite as major as our last publication! P.S. We love Biodiversity Data Journal and Pensoft’s ARPHA Writing Tool!

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Mikó I, Masner L, Deans A (2016) Pteroceraphron Dessart new to the USA (Hymenoptera: Ceraphronoidea). Biodiversity Data Journal 4: e9261. DOI: 10.3897/BDJ.4.e9261

Background.—Pteroceraphron is a monotypic genus that can be recognized by its unique, lanceolate wing shape. Until now the only described species, Pteroceraphron mirabilipennis Dessart 1981, was known only from specimens collected in Canada.

New information.—Here, for the first time, we report Pteroceraphron mirabilipennis Dessart 1981 specimens collected in the USA. We also provide an extended diagnosis.

Malagasy Conostigmus – our latest open access publication

Our most recent ARTS product is a doozy. Check it out! Also, we love PeerJ!

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Mikó I, Trietsch C, Sandall EL, Yoder MJ, Hines H, Deans AR. (2016) Malagasy Conostigmus (Hymenoptera: Ceraphronoidea) and the secret of scutes. PeerJ 4: e2682 DOI: 10.7717/peerj.2682

Abstract.—We revise the genus Conostigmus Dahlbom 1858 occurring in Madagascar, based on data from more specimens than were examined for the latest world revision of the genus. Our results yield new information about intraspecific variability and the nature of the atypical latitudinal diversity gradient (LDG) observed in Ceraphronoidea. We also investigate cellular processes that underlie body size polyphenism, by utilizing the correspondence between epidermal cells and scutes, polygonal units of leather-like microsculpture. Our results reveal that body size polyphenism in Megaspilidae is most likely related to cell number and not cell size variation, and that cell size differs between epithelial fields of the head and that of the mesosoma. Three species, Conostigmus ballescoracas Dessart, 1997, C. babaiax Dessart, 1996 and C. longulus Dessart, 1997, are redescribed. Females of C. longulus are described for the first time, as are nine new species: C. bucephalus Mikó and Trietsch sp. nov., C. clavatus Mikó and Trietsch sp. nov., C. fianarantsoaensis Mikó and Trietsch sp. nov., C. lucidus Mikó and Trietsch sp. nov., C. macrocupula, Mikó and Trietsch sp. nov., C. madagascariensis Mikó and Trietsch sp. nov., C. missyhazenae Mikó and Trietsch sp. nov., C. pseudobabaiax Mikó and Trietsch sp. nov., and C. toliaraensis Mikó and Trietsch sp. nov. A fully illustrated identification key for Malagasy Conostigmus species and a Web Ontology Language (OWL) representation of the taxonomic treatment, including specimen data, nomenclature, and phenotype descriptions, in both natural and formal languages, are provided.

Revision of Dvivarnus – István’s latest open access publication

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Talamas EJ, Mikó I, Copeland RS (2016) Revision of Dvivarnus (Scelionidae, Teleasinae). Journal of Hymenoptera Research 49: 1–23. doi: 10.3897/JHR.49.7714

Abstract.—Two new species, Dvivarnus elektrolythron Talamas & Mikó, sp. n. and D. mikuki Talamas & Mikó, sp. n. are described. The genus is redescribed and a key is provided to separate Dvivarnus from other groups in Teleasinae with mesoscutellar spines.

Dendrocerus mexicali (Hymenoptera, Ceraphronoidea, Megaspilidae) – our latest open access publication

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Burks KN, Mikó I, Deans AR (2016) Dendrocerus mexicali (Hymenoptera, Ceraphronoidea, Megaspilidae): Novel antennal morphology, first description of female, and expansion of known range into the U.S. ZooKeys 569: 53-69. doi: 10.3897/zookeys.569.6629

Abstract.—Dendrocerus mexicali has been described by Paul Dessart from a single male specimen collected in Mexico. Using 87 newly identified specimens we expand the known range to include the Southwestern United States and Florida, provide an expanded description of the species, and provide the first record of the female. We also use confocal laser scanning microscopy and in vitro hydrostatic pressure changes to investigate the functional morphology of apparently unique basally flexible antennal branches.

Insect Biodiversity and Evolution revolution

Last fall I gave a talk at the ESA annual meeting (see blog post about it) about re-envisioning our course on insect biodiversity and evolution (currently called, weirdly enough, Insect Biodiversity and Evolution (ENT432)). We’re in week five of the “revolution”, and it’s time to start being a bit more public about our efforts. That was, after all, the whole point of the talk I gave at ESA.

Redesigning a course is a complex undertaking, especially when we’re building on eight years of teaching history and bits and pieces of content from various colleagues. Hence we chose to start more or less from scratch, breaking the course down into modules that could be worked on in parallel:

  1.  Introduction – mostly logistics but also addresses the following questions: What are arthropods? What is systematics and why is it relevant?
  2. Arthropod morphology – lays the groundwork for understanding adaptations, evolution, and diagnosis
  3. Systematics and Evolution – basics of evolution (natural selection, adaptation, Hox genes), history of classification and phylogenetics (Aristotle to Hennig and beyond); puts our knowledge into context
  4. Early arthropods, fossils, terrestrialization – fossilization processes, important arthropod fossils, adaptations to the challenges of terrestrial environments; where did arthropods come from?
  5. Outgroups – covers non-insect arthropods and the likely sister to Arthropoda, Onychophora [see drafts of slideshow and handout]
  6. Non-pterygote hexapods – this and the rest are self-explanatory
  7. Palaeoptera
  8. Polyneoptera
  9. Acercaria
  10. Hymenoptera
  11. Neuropterida
  12. Coleoptera, Strepsiptera
  13. Antliophora
  14. Amphiesmenoptera
  15. Natural history collections (could/should be done as one of the first modules)

Additionally, we’ve identified a set of cool stories, bro (20+ min, could involve a paper and discussion) that are highly relevant and important for students training to become professional entomologists to know:

  • origin of wings
  • holometabolous development
  • leaf mining/herbivory strategies
  • galls/galling
  • mimicry/aposematism
  • sound production – percussion (Plecoptera), stridulation (Hemiptera: Heteroptera, Coleoptera, Lepidoptera, others), tymbals (Cicadamorpha), forced air (Blattodea)
  • sexual selection
  • fighting/weapons – or include in sexual selection? 
  • sociality – haplodiploidy, other conditions that contribute to rise of eusociality
  • nest architecture
  • myrmecophily – tie in with nest architecture?
  • symbioses – seems too diverse for one long discussion, maybe better as series of short vignettes (one on Blattabacterium, one on polydnaviruses, another on yeasts in hemipterans, etc.)
  • aquatic adaptations (breathing, swimming) – lentic, lotic, boundary layer, plastron breathing, air straps, hydrofuge hairs, semiaquatic, surface skimming
  • silk – which glands produce it, chemical composition, uses

And short vignettes (5–10 min, not much discussion maybe):

  • camouflage
  • pheromones
  • migration
  • wing coupling
  • cryophily
  • relicts
  • sucking mouth
  • xylophagy
  • resilin, jumping
  • tympana
  • mating position
  • foveation
  • parasitoidism
  • parasitism
  • predation

That could/should be peppered throughout the modules and revisited in multiple modules as necessary.

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“Outgroups” handout, in development at Overleaf

We’re still getting organized about how to engage colleagues and share emerging content. At the moment we use Google Slides for the lecture slideshows (slide example) and Overleaf for handouts (above; see also handout example). Our rules are: (1) maximize note-taking potential where possible, i.e., minimize text and use images to stimulate discussion, (2) use CC BY or CC0 images where possible (avoid copyrighted images unless we have permission that we can document and/or we are using them in the spirit of fair use), (3) document all content, including image source(s), content source(s), and dates of retrieval, (4) develop content in a way that maximizes safe re-use.

Any thoughts? What have we missed? Expect more frequent engagement (hopefully weekly) as this project unfolds! We’ll tag ’em, so that they can be browsed conveniently: InsectSystematics.

Emerging semantics to link phenotype and environment – our latest open access publication

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Thessen AE, Bunker DE, Buttigieg PL, Cooper LD, Dahdul WM, Domisch S, Franz NM, Jaiswal P, Lawrence-Dill CJ, Midford PE, Mungall CJ, Ramírez MJ, Specht CD, Vogt L, Vos RA, Walls RL, White JW, Zhang G, Deans AR, Huala E, Lewis SE, Mabee PM. (2015) Emerging semantics to link phenotype and environment. PeerJ 3:e1470. DOI: 10.7717/peerj.1470

Abstract.—Understanding the interplay between environmental conditions and phenotypes is a fundamental goal of biology. Unfortunately, data that include observations on phenotype and environment are highly heterogeneous and thus difficult to find and integrate. One approach that is likely to improve the status quo involves the use of ontologies to standardize and link data about phenotypes and environments. Specifying and linking data through ontologies will allow researchers to increase the scope and flexibility of large-scale analyses aided by modern computing methods. Investments in this area would advance diverse fields such as ecology, phylogenetics, and conservation biology. While several biological ontologies are well-developed, using them to link phenotypes and environments is rare because of gaps in ontological coverage and limits to interoperability among ontologies and disciplines. In this manuscript, we present (1) use cases from diverse disciplines to illustrate questions that could be answered more efficiently using a robust linkage between phenotypes and environments, (2) two proof-of-concept analyses that show the value of linking phenotypes to environments in fishes and amphibians, and (3) two proposed example data models for linking phenotypes and environments using the extensible observation ontology (OBOE) and the Biological Collections Ontology (BCO); these provide a starting point for the development of a data model linking phenotypes and environments.