There’s a fly on my nose!

By Mike Ackland
Honorary Associate of the HEC

In September 2011, John Carr of Massachusetts, USA, posted photographs of an anthomyiid fly on the website diptera.info. This site has thousands of photos of flies, sent in by both diptera enthusiasts who are keen photographers, and experts who offer advice and possible identification.

I recognised the anthomyiid as a species of Eutrichota, which has over 50 species in the Nearctic Region. Positive identification to species however generally requires examination of a specimen under a microscope. John, who is a very good photographer and naturalist, later added to his posting some very clear close-ups of various parts of a male specimen he had caught, and offered to send the specimen to me. This proved to be Eutrichota affinis (Stein), a species widespread in America and which is associated with the groundhog Marmota monax L. and may be found in and around their burrows. The larvae are considered to be facultative commensals probably feeding in excrement and debris in the burrows.

A few other species of Eutrichota in North America have been associated with mammals including ground squirrels, Spermophilus tridecemlineatus (Mitchell), chipmunks, Tamias striatus (L.) and various species of gophers (Geomys spp.).

In Europe other species of Eutrichota have been found around the burrows of the Alpine Marmot Marmota marmota L. There are seven species of Eutrichota in Britain, though no life histories are known. See Pont & Ackland, 1995 for more details of the flies found in the Alps (full reference below). I first met Adrian Pont (another Hope Department Honorary Associate) in the mid 1950’s in Leigh Woods near Bristol, where we were both collecting insects. So we have both been studying flies for over 50 years.

Recently John Carr sent me two photographs of specimens of Eutrichota affinis on the head and nose of a groundhog. These were taken in Connecticut on 30th May 2009. The groundhog family was living in a culvert, and John reports that they later ate part of his sister’s garden!
My thanks to John for permission to use these excellent photos.

Diptera, Anthomyiidae, fly, Eutrichota, Eutrichota affinis, Marmot, Marmota monax
There’s a fly on my nose!
Diptera, Anthomyiidae, fly, Eutrichota, Eutrichota affinis, Marmot, Marmota monax
Females of Eutrichota affinis (Stein)(Diptera: Anthomyiidae) on the head of the groundhog Marmota monax L.

Reference
Pont, A.C. & Ackland, D.M. (1995). Fanniidae, Muscidae and Anthomyiidae associated with Burrows of the Alpine Marmot Marmota marmota Linnaeus in the upper Ötz Valley (Tyrol, Austria). Insecta, Diptera. Berichte des naturwissenschaftlich-medizinischen Vereins in Innsbruck, 82: 319-324.

A pdf version of the paper is avaliable HERE.

Advertisements

Drawing techniques for publication

By Katherine Child

Despite the prevalence of photography in scientific and technical books and papers today, there are still times when a scientific work will call for a more traditional approach. Drawing remains an important part of natural history illustration, and can often provide a more specific and flexible way of communicating information.

Coleoptera, Corylopidae, beetle, drawing
An example of the way key features can be highlighted and isolated to provide clarity in a drawn illustration. Cleidostethus meliponae Arrow, from the genus Cleidostethus Arrow, by Stanley Bowestead.


Stanley Bowestead and Thomas Eccles are both enthusiastic advocates of drawing and have recently published a joint paper on technical drawing for publication in collaboration with the HEC. They argue that the value of drawing lies not only in the end results ability to communicate, but also that the process of drawing is in itself crucial to the better understanding of the subject at hand.  Producing a detailed drawing of a beetle for example, requires rigorous observational skills and after studying the insect, the observer will have gained a unique understanding of the form of that specimen.
Coleoptera, Coccinellidae, ladybird, beetle, drawing

Anatis ocellata (L.) by Stanley Bowestead. White gel pen has been used to highlight the setae on the legs.

In the past it was not only the lack of modern alternatives which made drawing a popular tool for documenting scientific findings. Science, art and religion all used to be closely linked to one another – to the point of being virtually indistinguishable as separate subjects. The study and appreciation of natural history through drawing was thought to bring a person closer to God, as well as being at the height of fashion during the Victorian era.    

So, it is shifting attitudes towards science and art, as well as photographic advances and the development of other imaging techniques such as SEMs, that have lead drawing to decline over the last 50 years or so in the study of natural history.  


Coleoptera, Scarabaidae, Cetoniinae, beetle, scarab, insect
An automontage photograph of a scarab. Photographic equipment and image processing have advanced rapidly in the last 30 years and high quality digital pictures are now becoming normal in scientific publications.
Stan and Thomas’ paper as well as being a practical how to guide on the technical drawing of insects, hopes to promote the value of drawing alongside other contemporary methods of illustration, as being something which remains relevant and invaluable as a learning resource in the field of science today. ­­
Coleoptera, Carabidae, Harpalinae, ground beelte, drawing

Lebia chlorocephalaby Thomas Eccles. Worked in colour pencil with highlights picked out in white ink.


The paper is available to download for free from the museum’s website.