Fireflies (Coleoptera: Lampyridae)

The Lampyridae Raffinesque 1815 are the beetles commonly known as fireflies and lightning bugs. There are over 2000 species in over 100 genera, with this being a quarter of the expected diversity (Viviani, 2001). They’re found all over the world and in all sorts of habitats, including aquatic ones (Fu …

Culicoidea (Insecta: Diptera)

The Culicoidea is a superfamily of nematoceran flies (see crudely-modified phylogeny above, from Grimaldi & Engel, 2005). It includes one the most well-known group of organisms, the mosquitoes (Culicidae), as well as three other families: the Dixidae, the Corethrellidae and Chaoboridae. Their sister group is the Chironomidea (containing the Chironomidae, …

Barnacles (Crustacea: Cirripedia)

Cirripedes (barnacles) are known for their sessility – it’s their defining characteristic. They count as one of the first model organisms of evolutionary biology, having been comparatively studied by Darwin for over 8 years (one would think they’re his favourite animals – although this letter says otherwise!). The 4 resulting monographs (two for Recent, two for fossil) are still some of the best examples of systematic biology done right (cf. Newman, 1987), and his experience working on them was extremely influential in setting his ideas on adaptation straight; among other things, it led to him stressing the importance of embryology for identification of possible homologies, laying the foundation for Haeckel’s expansion of that idea.Continue reading

Pholcids

When I was living in Germany, my room was in the cellar/basement of a house. The most abundant macroscopic organisms in my room are the subject of this post: pholcids. Anyone who has a dusty, somewhat dark room (e.g. a basement, or a cave) will recognise them: they’re the spiders …

Mole Crickets (Orthoptera: Gryllotalpidae)

Mole crickets (Gryllotalpidae) are cosmopolitan (except the poles), 3.2 – 3.5 cm (average, they can be larger than 5 cm!) relatives of crickets (suborder Ensifera, superfamily Grylloidea), named after the mole, since they are both animals that are highly-dependent on burrowing, and they kind of resemble each other (see drawing …

Are Animals Monophyletic?

I’m very short on time, so I will only do a basic introduction instead of a full post. In popular science documentaries or books, it is always said that all animals descend from a single common ancestor. (Typically followed by a horrible line leading straight to humans, hooray.) In other …

Describing New Species

You can use this as a general guide for how to describe new species, except you have to look out for the relevant taxonomic characters (but if you’re describing a new species, I guess you already knew that). Think of this as some form of template.

Weevils (Coleoptera: Curculionoidae)

For a nicely-formatted PDF of this post, click here! Along with the Chrysomelidae (leaf beetles) and Tenebrionidae (darkling beetles), the superfamily Curculionidae (weevils, bark beetles and ambrosia beetles; from now on collectively referred to as “weevils”) are some of the most damaging pests in agriculture. As larvae, some may feed …