In recognition of the love and devotion that Terry expressed for the study of the World’s biodiversity, ZooKeys invites contributions to this memorial issue, covering all subjects falling within the area of systematic zoology. Titled “Systematic Zoology and Biodiversity Science: A tribute to Terry Erwin (1940-2020)”.
In tribute to our beloved friend and founding Editor-in-Chief, Dr Terry
Erwin, who passed away on 11th May 2020, we are planning a special
memorial volume to be published on 11 May 2021, the date Terry left us. Terry
will be remembered by all who knew him for his radiant spirit, charming
enthusiasm for carabid beetles and never-ceasing exploration of the world of
In recognition of the love and devotion that Terry expressed for study of the World’s biodiversity, ZooKeys invites contributions to this memorial issue, titled “Systematic Zoology and Biodiversity Science: A tribute to Terry Erwin (1940-2020)”, to all subjects falling within the area of systematic zoology. Of special interest are papers recognising Terry’s dedication to collection based research, massive biodiversity surveys and origin of biodiversity hot spot areas. The Special will be edited by John Spence, Achille Casale, Thorsten Assmann, James Liebherr and Lyubomir Penev.
Article processing charges (APCs) will be waived for: (1) Contributions
to systematic biology and diversity of carabid beetles, (2) Contributions from
Terry’s students and (3) Contributions from his colleagues from the Smithsonian
Institution. The APC for articles which do not fall in the above categories
will be discounted at 30%.
The submission deadline is 31st December 2020.
Contributors are also invited to send memories and photos which shall be
published in a special addendum to the volume.
The memorial volume will also include a joint project of Plazi, Pensoft and the Biodiversity Literature Repository aimed at extracting of taxonomic data from Terry Erwin’s publications and making it easily accessible to the scientific community.
For 157 years, scientists have wished they could understand the evolutionary relationships of a curious South American ground beetle that was missing a distinctive feature of the huge family of ground beetles (Carabidae). Could it be that this rare species was indeed lacking a characteristic trait known in over 40,000 species worldwide and how could that be? Was that species assigned to the wrong family from the very beginning?
The species, Nototylus fryi,or Fry’s strange-combed beetle, is known so far only from a single, damaged specimen found in 1863 in the Brazilian State of Espíritu Santo, which today is kept in the Natural History Museum of London. So rare and unusual, due to its lack of “antennal cleaners” – specialised “combing” structures located on the forelegs and used by carabids to keep their antennae clean, it also prompted the description of its own genus: Nototylus, now colloquially called strange-combed beetles.
No mention of the structure was made in the original description of the species, so, at one point, scientists even started to wonder whether the beetle they were looking at was in fact a carabid at all.
Because the area where Fry’s strange-combed beetle had been found was once Southern Atlantic Forest, but today is mostly sugar cane fields, cacao plantations, and cattle ranches, scientists have feared that additional specimens of strange-combed beetles might never be collected again and that the group was already extinct. Recently, however, a US team of entomologists have reported the discovery of a second specimen, one also representing a second species of strange-combed beetles new to science.
Following a careful study of this second, poorly preserved specimen, collected in French Guiana in 2014, the team of Dr Terry Erwin (Smithsonian Institution), Dr David Kavanaugh (California Academy of Sciences) and Dr David Maddison (Oregon State University) described the species, Nototylus balli, or Ball’s strange-combed beetle, in a paper that they published in the open-access scholarly journal ZooKeys. The entomologists named the species in honour of their academic leader and renowned carabidologist George E. Ball, after presenting it to him in September 2016 around the time of his 90th birthday.
Despite its poor, yet relatively better condition, the new specimen shows that probable antennal grooming organs are indeed present in strange-combed beetles. However, they looked nothing like those seen in other genera of ground beetles and they are located on a different part of the front legs. Rather than stout and barely movable, the setae (hair-like structures) in the grooming organs of strange-combed beetles are slender, flexible and very differently shaped, which led the researchers to suggest that the structure had a different role in strange-combed beetles.
Judging from the shapes of the setae in the grooming organs, the scientists point out that they are best suited for painting or coating the antennae, rather than scraping or cleaning them. Their hypothesis is that these rare carabids use these grooming structures to cohabitate with ants or termites, where they use them to apply specific substances to their antennae, so that the host colony recognises them as a friendly species, a kind of behaviour already known in some beetles.
However, the mystery around the strange-combed beetle remains, as the scientists found no evidence of special secretory structures in the specimen studied. It turns out that the only way to test their hypothesis, as well as to better understand the evolutionary relationships of these beetles with other carabids is finding and observing additional, preferably live, specimens in their natural habitat. Fortunately, this new discovery shows that the continued search for these beetles may yield good results because strange-combed beetles are not extinct.
Erwin TL, Kavanaugh DH, Maddison DR (2020) After 157 years, a second specimen and species of the phylogenetically enigmatic and previously monobasic genus Nototylus Gemminger & Harold, 1868 (Coleoptera, Carabidae, Nototylini). ZooKeys 927: 65-74. https://doi.org/10.3897/zookeys.927.49584
While new species are most commonly described based on recent field collections, undertaken at poorly explored places, some are identified in museum collections, where they have spent decades before being recognised as new to science. Such is the case of an unusually large and likely extinct ground beetle found at the Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle, Paris, whose story began in the distant 1860s with Dr. Eduard Graeffe’s trip to Samoa. Now, a century and a half later, the beetle is finally described by Dr. James K. Liebherr, Cornell University, USA, in the open access journal Zoosystematics and Evolution.
Much like the rest of the species within the genus, the beetle now going under the name Bryanites graeffi showed vestigial flight wings and other traits associated with flight-wing loss. However, at length of 16.2 mm it is the largest for the taxonomic group it is now assigned to. Although this may seem way too obvious for taxonomists to overlook, the beetle’s relatives are just as obscure. The Bryanites genus was previously known from two species represented by two specimens only, collected in 1924 from Savai?i Island by Edwin H. Bryan, Jr., Bernice P. Bishop Museum in Honolulu, during the Bishop Museum’s Whitney South Seas Expedition.
As a result, we now have three species representing an evolutionary radiation in Samoa, all known from single specimens collected long ago. The phylogenetics of these three species link them to other groups from Fiji and New Zealand.
What is the advantage of knowledge about species that existed some 90-150 years ago, but no longer? It might actually point us to the actual level of impact mankind has on natural ecosystems. The cause of the likely extermination of Bryanites graeffi might never be known with certainty, however, the colonization of many Pacific islands by the Polynesian rat has always been followed by the diminution or elimination of native insect species. Thus, we can add another likely victim to the list of species that have been adversely impacted by mankind’s commensal voyagers.
The species bears the name of its original collector to pay tribute to Dr. Graeffe and his hard work while collecting insects in the rain forest of Samoa well over a century ago .
Liebherr JK (2017) Bryanites graeffii sp. n. (Coleoptera, Carabidae): museum rediscovery of a relict species from Samoa. Zoosystematics and Evolution 93(1): 1-11. https://doi.org/10.3897/zse.93.10802