Spot the difference!

We are having rather a busy time of it in the department at the moment with lots of visitors, volunteers and outside activities including the ‘Creatures of the Night!’ late night event that was held at the Museum of the History of Science last Friday evening.
After all the hard work we decided that it was time for something fun so here is a five minute distraction for you whilst you have a cup of tea and a biscuit.

The rather stunningly handsome beetle below is a member of the genus Megaphanaeus. He is complete in the first picture but FIVE things have changed by the time we get to the second photo. See if you can spot them all!

Complete beetle

What’s missing here? Can you spot the five differences?

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Gené dor left open


Carlo Giuseppe Gené (1800-1847) was an Italian naturalist, who became the Professor of Zoology and director of the Royal Zoological Museum at Turin (1830). Between 1833 and 1838 Gené made four trips to Sardinia to collect insects. These trips resulted in two primary publications, in which he described many new species to science:
Gené, C. G. 1836: De quibusdam Insectis Sardiniae novis aut minus cognitis. [Fasciculus I.]. Memorie della Reale Accademia delle Scienze di Torino, Torino 39: 161-199, [1] Taf. (Fig.1-29).
Gené, C. G. 1839: De quibusdam Insectis Sardiniae novis aut minus cognitis. [Fasciculus II.]. Memorie della Reale Accademia delle Scienze di Torino, Classe die Scienze Fisiche, Matematiche e Naturali, 2. Ser., Torino 1: 43-84, Taf. I-II.
Most of Gené’s insect collection is in Museo Regionale di Scienze Naturali di Torino, with duplicates being deposited in the Museo Civico di Storia Naturale de Milan and in Museo storia naturale di Pisa.  However, some of his insect specimens are believed to be lost or destroyed.
For example, in the recent revisions of the genus Chelotrupes (a dor beetle) by Dellacasa and Dellacasa (2008) the authors were unable to find the original specimen(s) Gené used to describe Chelotrupes hiostius and so designated a neotype (a new type to replace one that is lost or destroyed). Hillert et. al. (2012) followed this in their review of the genus Chelotrupes.
The department provided the type specimen of Chelotrupes momus (Fabricius, 1792) for the Hillert et. al. (2012) work on the genus, and when the paper was recently sent to us along with the returned loan of our specimen, we noted the ‘lost’ Gené specimen cited. We knew we had some of Gené’s specimens in Oxford, but the value and extent of this collection had not been realised. 
Gené corresponded with our founder Frederick W. Hope (1797-1862) and in our archive collection there are letters to Hope dated 7th March 1835, 25th February and 24th October 1837 and June 1844. The most interesting archive (dated 1837) was a list of ninety-six Insects from Sardinia that Gené sent to Hope. In which, several of the new species, identified in the list by having ‘nob’ after their scientific name, which is shorthand Latin for nobis– which translates as ‘belonging to me’, and was used by authors to designate their new species. In this list was Geotrupes hiostius (as Gené called it).
archive, letter, species list, coleoptera, OUMNH, library
List of specimens that Gené sent to Hope
After the discovery of this archive we searched the collections and found the ‘lost’ type of Chelotrupes hiostius (Gené) in our dor beetle collection.
Coleoptera, type, Chelotrupes hiostius, OUMNH, Gené, Sardinia
The type specimen of Chelotrupes hiostius
An amazing discovery for us, as this specimen’s scientific importance had not been recognised for over 170 years! We have looked for a further two specimens from this list, and have found both, one Oil Beetle and a Stag Beetle. We hope to spend some time over the summer to see how many more from this list we can find!
References:

Dellacasa M. & Dellacasa G. (2008). Revision of the genus Chelotrupes Jekel, 1866 n. stat. (Insecta,    Coleoptera, Geotrupidae). Zoosystema 30 (3): 629-640.
 Hillert, O., Kràl D. & J. Schneider. (2011). Revision of the European genus Chelotrupes (Jekel, 1866) (Coleoptera: Geotrupidae: Chromogeotrupidae). Acta Societatis Zoologicae Bohemicae 76: 1-44.
For more information about Gené please use the following links.

10th Coleopterists Day


On February 2nd we hosted for the second year the annual national beetle (Coleoptera) enthusiasts day, with the fifty attendees coming from as far as Cornwall and Lancashire. The day kicked off with proper coffee, tea and biscuits and then a series of talks, followed by a tour of the entomology department and a dung beetle workshop. 


The talks presented were a nice mix of professional, student and enthusiast and were enjoyable and entertaining. The talks were: Using traits to evaluate ladybird distributions – Richard Comont, CEH; Prionus coriarius in Richmond Park – John Lock; Suckers & sexual conflict in diving beetles – Dave Bilton, Plymouth University; Studying the ecology of British Oil Beetles – John Walters; New initiatives to support beetle recording in Britain – Helen Roy, BRC.

Coleoptera, beetles, lecture, OUMNH
Helen Roy presenting her talk on beetle recording in Britain
The collections (thanks to Amoret Spooner) and Library (thanks to the Librarian Kate Santry) were accessible throughout the afternoon, and many took advantage of using the library (for the first time) and the collections to confirm identifications against our reference material or just to see the more unusual species and extract data. 


The workshop ‘Dung Beetle Identification’ was a bit of squeeze in our teaching area, with a few too many enthusiastic coleopterists wanting to know how to identify the small and often difficult Aphodius

Coleoptera, beetles, dung beetles, Scarabaeidae, British, identification
Darren Mann presenting his workshop on dung beetle identification

However, using our digital video set-up and monitor we managed to get through the entire dung beetle fauna, giving tips and tricks on their identification and interpretation of the key couplets, the stalwart coleopterists continuing until 8pm.

Coleoptera, beetles, identification, course, Scarabaeidae, characters, morphology
Darren Mann using the video microscope to show characters used in the identification of British dung beetle species

Rediscovered: Meloe mediterraneus

A species of Oil Beetle, Meloe mediterraneus, which was previously thought to be extinct in the UK, has been rediscovered as part of the on-going Oil Beetle conservation project being run by Buglife.

Coleoptera, Meloidae, beetle, Meloe mediterraneus
Female Meloe mediterraneus. Photograph courtesy of John Walters.


The beetles were found at Bolt Head, a National Trust site in South Devon by a local naturalist who was carrying out a study for the Oil Beetle conservation project. The discovery was confirmed by Darren Mann who is a specialist in British Oil Beetles. It is the first record for this species in over 100 years and the first ever for Southwest England. It is currently the only site that this species has been found at but it is hoped that with further survey work more populations can be found in other areas of the county.

Prior to its rediscovery, the Mediterranean Oil Beetle was only known to have ever existed in the east of the country- in Essex and Kent. The beetle was last sighted in Kent in 1906 and was thought to be extinct in the UK until rediscovered this year.

One reason for Meloe mediterraneus remaining undiscovered was that the specimens were mistaken for the similar looking Rugged Oil Beetle, Meloe rugosus (previously blogged about by us here). The adult Mediterranean Oil Beetle is slightly larger than the Rugged Oil Beetle, and has a larger thorax. The Rugged Oil Beetle also has a crease down the centre of the thorax that is absent in the Mediterranean Oil Beetle.

Coleoptera, Meloidae, beetles, rugosus, mediterraneus, Meloe, British
Photograph to illustrate the differences between Meloe rugosus (left) and Meloe mediterraneus. Note the groove on the thorax of Meloe rugosus. Photograph courtesy of John Walters.

The triungulins (larvae) are possibly even more distinctive, with those of Meloe mediterraneus being entirely orange whilst those of Meloe rugosus have an obvious dark head.

Coleoptera, Meloidae, triungulins, larvae
                    Triungulin of Meloe rugosus (left) and Meloe mediterraneus (right).                   Photographs courtesy of John Walters.

In the news: Buglife, The Telegraph, WildlifeExtra
Mini guide to identifying Oil Beetles

Specimen recuration or ‘how to fix a broken beetle’

We recently had an enquiry asking for advice on how to fix an entomological display specimen and after some discussion, it was decided that it would be best if the specimen be bought into the collection to be professionally repaired. The specimen was that of a scarab beetle, Chalcosoma atlas (Rhinoceros or Atlas beetle) a relatively large species found in South-east Asia. 
As specimen repair is something that we have to undertake on almost a daily basis and one of the seemingly more baffling aspects of our job (not many people get to say that they glue insects back together for a living after all) we thought it might be interesting to show something of the hands on side of our work. We undertake repairs on a whole variety of dried insects and arachnids, many of which are of historical value. Damage can occur either through pest or mechanical action or from initial poor specimen preparation.

The first image shows the scarab as it was when it arrived. Along with the obvious destruction, there was also severe pest damage, caused by the Flour beetle, Tribolium castaneum. This meant that before any restoration could be done, the specimen needed to be frozen to kill any remaining pests. It was bagged up and frozen at -30°C for six days. Once it was un-bagged and removed from the frame, it was vacuumed thoroughly to remove all the dust and debris caused by the pests. A paint brush was used to gently clean the specimen. 

Insect, Coleoptera, Scarabaeidae, Chalcosome atlas, HEC, OUMNH, specimen repair
Pest damage has led to this specimen disarticulating in its display case
The restoration had to be done in-situ as the specimen was glued to the glass to with some heavy duty glue and could not be removed. 
The first stage of repair was to reattach the legs; there were two missing, one beneath the right wing and the right front leg, which was also missing part of its claw (these areas are highlighted in red on the image below). The glue we use to fix insects is of conservation grade and water-soluble; this means that it will not have a detrimental effect on the specimen; it does take longer to dry, but has the benefit of drying clear.
Insect, Coleoptera, Scarabaeidae, Chalcosome atlas, HEC, OUMNH, specimen repair
Areas ringed in red show where repairs have been undertaken on the specimens legs
Once the legs were secure, the head was attached. Foam was required to form a ledge to raise the head to the correct angle; pins were then used to hold it in place for the two hours it took for the glue to dry. The image below, top shows the positioning required. The final stage was the re-attachment of the elytra (front wings). A similar method was used as for the head, but this time towers of white tack were also needed along with the pins to form full support (below, bottom); because the area of attachment was so small, the weight of the elytra needed to be completely supported while the glue dried.
Insect, Coleoptera, Scarabaeidae, Chalcosome atlas, HEC, OUMNH, specimen repair
Head propped on plastazote block to obtain correct angle
Insect, Coleoptera, Scarabaeidae, Chalcosome atlas, HEC, OUMNH, specimen repair
Wings held in posistion with stacks of white tack


Once the glue had dried clear in all the areas, the specimen was finished and ready to be reframed, as seen below- or not as the case may be as the aim of all repair is to do it in such a way that it should be almost impossible to tell that it has been fixed.
Insect, Coleoptera, Scarabaeidae, Chalcosome atlas, HEC, OUMNH, specimen repair
The final appearance of the specimen once it had been repaired