“The Botanists Among Us: Host plant specialization in insects”

It’s been a busy week for me—just two days after doing a presentation on tiger beetles to the Webster Groves Nature Society’s Entomology Group, I gave a talk to the St. Louis Chapter of the Missouri Native Plant Society. As implied by the title, the talk focused on host plant specialization among insects, first covering the major groups of plant-feeding insects and the evolutionary themes involved in adaption to (and away from) plant-feeding, then moving to examples of different types of host plant specificity and highlighting some of the more interesting insects that I’ve encountered (and managed to photograph) over the years.

Like my talk two nights earlier, it was another fun and lighthearted conversation with a highly engaged crowd, and I appreciate the great interest shown by a group that is normally much more focused on plants than on insects. Once again, it was well-attended locally, but for the benefit of those who were not able to attend the meeting in person and that may be interested in this subject, I’ve prepared a PDF version* of the presentation that you can download and peruse at your convenience.

* All content is copyrighted and may not be reproduced or distributed without written consent.

© Ted C. MacRae 2019

“Highlights from Nearly 20 Years of Chasing Tiger Beetles in Missouri”

Last night, Chris Brown—my longtime field companion and fellow tiger beetle aficionado—and I gave a presentation to the Entomology Group of the Webster Groves Nature Study Society at Shaw Nature Reserve in Gray Summit, Missouri, giving highlights from our nearly 20 of “chasing” tiger beetles in Missouri. Our work not only revealed two new state records (Cicindelidia trifasciata ascendens and Cylindera celeripes), bringing to 24 the total number of tiger beetle species known from the state, but also featured intensive surveys for several species of conservation interest.

It was a fun, lighthearted presentation that emphasized the experiences we had while conducting these surveys and our growth as natural historians as a result of them. Of course, beautiful photographs of tiger beetles were used liberally throughout the presentation (for those who do not know, Chris was my early mentor in the area of insect macrophotography!). While we had a nice local turnout, I realize most of the readership of this blog could not have attended this event in person. Never fear, however, for I have saved the slide deck as a PDF document* that you can download and peruse at your convenience.

* All content is copyrighted and may not be reproduced or distributed without written consent.

© Ted C. MacRae 2019


A plea for comments on ICZN Case 3769

The latest issue of the Bulletin of Zoological Nomenclature contains Case 3769 (Bílý et al. 2018), in which my coauthors and I ask the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature to declare the privately published pamphlet “Procrustomachia” as an unavailable work for nomenclatural purposes. This pamphlet, first issued in 2016, is authored, edited, and produced (I hesitate to use the word “published”) by a single individual—Roman B. Hołyński, who has used the pamphlet as a vehicle for describing new taxa of jewel beetles (family Buprestidae, order Coleoptera). Each issue of the pamphlet is presented in the form of a PDF file under the guise of the “Occasional Papers of the Uncensored Scientists Group” and distributed electronically by Hołyński himself via e-mail and uploaded to his personal page on the social network site ResearchGate. By the time our case went to press, Hołyński had described one new genus, eight new subgenera, 17 new species, and one new subspecies of jewel beetle—three additional new subgenera and five new species have been proposed since.

We are asking the Commission to declare the pamphlet as an unavailable work because it does not satisfy the requirements for publication of scientific names in zoology according to provisions in the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN 1999) and its amendments (ICZN 2012), thus making the names published within them unavailable for nomenclatural purposes. The pamphlets do not qualify as valid electronic publications because 1) they are not deposited in a recognized archive and 2) the new names within them are not registered at ZooBank prior to electronic distribution. Both of these conditions must be met in order to qualify as valid electronically-issued works. As a result, the validity of the works can only be based on printed copies. Here also the pamphlet does not satisfy the ICZN requirement of “numerous identical and durable copies” for works issued as printed copies. No information is given in any of the volumes regarding where printed copies may be obtained, and our online searches have revealed only three institutions where printed issues have been deposited—the Polish National Library being the only one of the three that lists a complete set of issues. This gives grounds to assume that the initial print run is far too small to be considered a valid printed work for nomenclatural purposes.

There is a larger issue at stake than just the validity of “Procrustomachia” and the availability of the names proposed within it. Privately-produced pamphlets that ignore safeguards against modification and ensuring long-term availability to the scientific community represent a threat to the stability of taxonomic nomenclature. Such safeguards and the commonly accepted rules for publishing new names in zoology are likely to be ignored by irresponsible, very often commercial collectors, ambitious individuals, or poorly qualified amateurs. The ICZN needs a tougher approach regarding publication criteria for new names, for example, to be bound to peer-reviewed professional journals (both printed and electronic, but printed preferably) with international editorial boards including highly qualified taxonomists. If such approach is not implemented soon, we could be facing an avalanche of PC-printed “home-made” new names. A more detailed background and discussion of this issue was presented by Bílý & Volkovitsh (2017).

Comments on this case are invited for publication (subject to editing) in the Bulletin of Zoological Nomenclature. Send comments to the Secretariat, ICZN, Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum, 2 Conservatory Drive, Singapore 117377, Republic of Singapore (e-mail: iczn@nus.edu.sg).


Bílý, S. & M. G. Volkovitsh. 2017. New unavailable names in Buprestidae (Coleoptera) and a short comment on the electronic publication of new names. Zootaxa 4243(2):371–372 [abstract].

Bílý, S., M. G. Volkovitsh & T. C. MacRae. 2018. Case 3769 – Proposed use of the plenary power to declare the pamphlet “Procrustomachia” as an unavailable work. Bulletin of Zoological Nomenclature 75(31 December 2018):220–224. ISSN 2057-0570 (online) [pdf].

ICZN (International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature). 1999. International Code of Zoological Nomenclature, 4th Edition. International Trust for Zoological Nomenclature, London, xxix + 306 pp. [online version].

ICZN (International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature). 2012. Amendment of Articles 8, 9, 10, 21 and 78 of the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature to expand and refine methods of publication. Bulletin of Zoological Nomenclature 69:161–169 [full text].

© Ted C. MacRae 2019