The Tree of Earthworms

Earthworm taxonomists describing what they do to a layperson is hilarious to watch. Laypeople often have a difficult time understanding the concept of a species – you will regularly hear statements that there are only 50 insect species, for example. Insect species often differ in colour and patterning, so it’s easy to then …

RIP Niels Peder Kristensen (1943-2014)

Sad news for entomologists, entomological systematists, and lepidopterists: Professor Niels Peder Kristensen died on December 6th. His staff page contains all his biographical information. He spent the majority of his career in the prodigial Zoological Museum of the University of Copenhagen (now Natural History Museum of Copenhagen), where he did very …

The Twisted-Wing Parasites (Insecta: Strepsiptera)

The Strepsiptera, commonly called twisted-wing parasites, are an enigmatic order of obligately parasitic insects discovered by the “founder of entomology”, William Kirby, and characterised by him in Kirby (1813). Unrelated, this paper also contains the first mention of another order of insect, the Trichoptera (caddisflies). There are over 600 Recent …

The Eurypterida (Sea Scorpions)

Eurypterids were a dominant group of aquatic chelicerates, related to scorpions, spiders, and horseshoe crabs. They’re commonly called “sea scorpions” due to a long-recognised superficial similarity to scorpions, as can be seen above. This has led to several studies stating that eurypterids are scorpions (Versluys & Demoll, 1920), that scorpions …

Pterosaurs

There is a brand new book on pterosaurs out: Witton’s Pterosaurs: Natural History, Evolution, Anatomy, published by Princeton University Press. Vertebrate palaeontologist friends are telling me it’s a stunning and masterful book, suitable both for the lay public and as a reference work, so if you have any interest at …

What is an animal (Opisthokonta: Metazoa)?

Sponges, cnidarians, annelids, vertebrates, arthropods, echinoderms, molluscs, and a large diversity of obscure “worms” and tiny meiofaunal organisms make up the Metazoa Haeckel 1874, the group more commonly known as “animals”. But with the enormous diversity of unicellular and multicellular eukaryotes, what are the features that set animals apart from …