Bringing the George H. and Alice F. Beatty Odonata collection into the digital age – our latest publication

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George and Alice Beatty observing odonates. Photo (CC BY 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/yqg41q

Sandall, E. L. (2016) Bringing the George H. and Alice F. Beatty Odonata collection into the digital age. Argia 28(4): 33–34 (preprint – DOI: 10.6084/m9.figshare.4490552.v1)

Abstract.—A collection of over 60,000 odonate specimens can tell many stories. It can show the successful preservation of dragonflies and damselflies, as well as the differences in prey and habitat associations between taxa. The field notes can share observations and collecting details with those who may have never seen a particular species in the field. A collection of this size can also demonstrate the importance of natural history museums and their contents, enabling biodiversity research decades later. Of particular interest is the mobility of collections in the digital age, as evidenced through the U.S. NSF’s investment in Advancing Digitization of Biodiversity Collections (ADBC) grants, liberating natural history data on which novel research can be conducted. Over the past two years, I have worked with the collection of George H. and Alice F. Beatty at the Frost Entomological Museum at Penn State University in order to digitize the specimens in the collection, catalog them, and find ways to use their data through an NSF Thematic Collections Network (TCN) grant for digitization.

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.

Updates and thoughts on course materials

As I posted before (in February and again in March), we’re in the midst of reinventing our upper level course on insect biodiversity and evolution. Our long term mission has always been to make these materials available broadly, under a license with few restrictions (probably CC BY). We’ve started pushing materials to our GitHub repo, so that people can clone, use, edit, add, push, etc.—a process that I expect to be slow—and the time seems right for an update.

Over the last month or so we spent about 60 hours on what was the least developed handout: Amphiesmenoptera. I always teach this taxon at the end of the course, and by then we are usually running out of steam. We removed all uncredited images and replaced them with our own photos, CC-licensed photos from Flickr, and out-of-copyright illustrations from the Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL). All are referenced and linked back to their sources. See Figure 13 in the Amphiesmenoptera handout, for example:

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The process is definitely taking longer than I anticipated, although this handout needed way more work than most. We want each handout to represent a unit of knowledge, in this case amphiesmenopteran diversity, evolution, adaptations, diagnostic characters, and natural history. The lab and lecture components will likely be fused in future iterations of the course: we introduce the focal taxa, discuss some higher-level adaptations and things to watch for when looking at specimens in lab, then we break to look at specimens, using the handout as a guide. There will be many opportunities to take breaks and discuss what we’ve found (mini lectures mixed in with lab). At the end we answer some big picture questions as a group.

Some other thoughts, in random list form:

  • The BHL is an incredible resource. We will be using it more in other handouts! I will likely edit the .bst file to render linked DOI and URIs, so that readers can see the source in one click from the PDF.
  • We need to move away from using content whose license is not controlled by my lab group or our collaborators. Image source and permissions management gets increasingly difficult in rapidly evolving, image-rich content. This situation gave us ideas for student exercises involving camera phones and microscopy. More on that later.
  • GitHub and Overleaf are awesome tools, with great synergy, but I wish there was a seamless way to push changes made in Overleaf to our GitHub repo. This post gets me halfway there … but I am (arguably too) reliant on Overleaf as my primary LaTeX editor.
  • We’re looking for more graded exercise ideas if you have any. I am especially interested in alternatives to collection making. Would you let a student curate the research collection for credit?

My next move, which might happen right now, is to push the remaining handouts to GitHub. Onwards!

Collaborative, open access course materials

It’s time to follow up on my post last month, in which I established a starting point for our collaborative course on insect biodiversity and evolution. We’ve had extensive back and forth here, about how to establish a robust, user-friendly environment for contributing edits and content to course materials. We settled on GitHub: https://github.com/adeans/InsectBiodiversityEvolution

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And we’ve started migrating materials there. Probably the best place to start if you’re interested in learning more about the project or want to contribute your own materials is our wiki: https://github.com/adeans/InsectBiodiversityEvolution/wiki

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We’re drafting some help documents this week that will guide one through the process of submitting issues, downloading (cloning) files, submitting changes, etc.