Collection Inventory update

The more observant – and taxonomically inclined – among my readers may have noticed the sidebar item entitled, “T. C. MacRae Collection”. The links within that item lead to Google documents detailing the species in those groups of insects that are represented within my collection. I am primarily a beetle guy, and within that vast taxon I focus mostly on the woodboring beetle groups Buprestidae and Cerambycidae and the tiger beetle family Cicindelidae. As you can see, however, I have inventories for several additional groups, including non-beetle families – a testament to my inability to suppress broad interest in insects as a whole. I don’t claim to be an expert in these other groups of insects, but I do enjoy learning about groups outside my chosen field of expertise. It’s a bit of a ‘throwback’ attitude – insect taxonomists of the 19th and early 20th centuries commonly studied multiple families or even orders of insects. This broad approach has largely disappeared in the past 50 years, as taxonomists increasingly have been forced to become narrowly focused on a single insect taxon. I can maintain this broad approach because, while I am a professional entomologist, I am a taxonomist only by avocation. My research is conducted at my own discretion and doesn’t rely on securing grants or fulfilling a departmental mission. Rather, it is directed only by what I find interesting and can reasonably afford in terms of time and expense.

The purpose of this update is twofold – to call attention to two recent additions to the list of inventories, and to explain how the inventories are constructed in the event that some future reader will want to utilize them for reference. In the past two weeks, I’ve received back material accumulated over the years in the families Mutillidae (velvet ants) and Asilidae (robber flies). This material had been sent to experts for identification – doctoral candidate Kevin Williams (Utah State University) graciously provided IDs for the velvet ants, while worldwide asilid expert Dr. Eric Fisher (California Department of Food and Agriculture) kindly identified the robber flies. For each of these groups, an inventory was constructed in which the species represented by my material are listed in the context of the group’s currently accepted higher classification. In each case, higher taxa not represented in my collection are indicated by lighter gray text. A similar approach has been used, to varying degrees, in the other listed inventories. The biggest one, Buprestoidea, represents the bulk of my collection, listing almost 1,500 species from around the world. In this case, not only is the complete higher classification indicated, but all currently recognized world genera are also listed, as well as all known North American species. Again, taxa not represented in my collection are indicated by lighter gray text. Similar inventories have been constructed for Cerambycidae and Cicindelidae, but in these cases the inclusion of taxa missing from my collection is limited to those occurring in North America – their combined worldwide fauna is simply too large for me to concern myself with, given my primary focus on the worldwide buprestoid fauna.

Regarding the Buprestoidea, Cerambycidae, and Cicindelidae – these are my chosen groups of interest in which I am actively building North American representation (worldwide for Buprestoidea). If anyone can provide specimens representing taxa not in my collection, please contact me directly. I am more than happy to exchange for such material. As for the other groups, they are primarily ‘just for fun’ – I collect them when convenient because they are interesting, but more importantly to make them available to others who might have a research interest in them. If anyone working in these groups sees species listed that are of interest to your research, please feel free to contact me for a loan or exchange. I have material in many additional groups not yet listed – inventories will be posted as they become available. If you have interest in a group not listed, please contact me and I’ll let you know what material I have available for loan/exchange.

3 thoughts on “Collection Inventory update

  1. I’ll definitely keep you in mind next summer when I try to bag C. rufiventris hentzi while back in New England.

    I’m curious about the fact that you are maintaining Cicindelidae at full family status. I’m not sufficiently kowledgeable regarding the arcana of coleopteran taxonomy to have an opinion of my own, but I’d really like to hear your thoughts. I’d also be curious to know where you come down on the whole subspecies controversy.

  2. Doug — Even the top experts don’t agree on family vs. subfamily vs. even supertribe/tribe for the group. That means I get to pick 😉 Seriously, there is no question that the group is monophyletic – the only question is whether the clade is nested within Carabidae. The jury still seems to be out on that, but many of the characters described for the group seem to justify family status – e.g., subocular antennal insertion and symmetrical parameres. For me, the highly derived larval morphology and specialized life history seem especially significant. If heavy-hitters Pearson and Vogler can support family status, so can I.Regarding subspecies, I’ve long felt that the concept of subspecies as allopatric populations has been abused in cicindelid taxonomy due to the common occurrence of intergrade zones. I’ve recently tempered my skepticism somewhat in light of evidence suggesting that gene flow may be quite restricted across these intergrade zones, which if true would qualify the subspecies as true evolutionary units and not just taxonomic ones (see my earlier post for more detailed thoughts about this). I still believe some subspecies cannot be supported because the intergrade zones are just too broad (e.g. Cicindela formosa generosa versus nominate C. formosa).I look foward to seeing a few specimens of Cicindela rufiventris hentzi next summer 😉

  3. You and Doug are way, way, way over my head with your insect talk. Although, like I’ve said on my blog, I still find insects extremely interesting. The shear numbers of insects is mind boggling to me. They play such a diverse role in all ecosystems that we don’t fully understand. We are learning with the red-cockaded woodpecker that they are much more important than we ever realized.


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