We held our weekly lab meeting at Sunset Park, so that we could collect live Megaspilidae and Cynipini for histology and other data collection. Therefore we didn’t spend much time discussing our weekly readings. Some of us did put together narratives though, which you can find below.
Andy: I am part of a collaborative team that aims to understand the mechanisms that underly gall initiation and development in Cynipini (gall wasps). Some of this research has appeared here before, and we will certainly post a lot more soon (We have results!). At first my contributions were more or less advisory, but since January my interest in the biology of this group has been exploding. This week I stepped back from reviewing contemporary research on gall wasps (e.g., Ronquist et al., 2015), and read instead the deep natural history papers of Adler (1894) and Kinsey (1920) … before going off the rails a bit with Derham (1720) and Malpighi (1679).
As stated above, part of our lab meeting was spent collecting adult gall wasps for further analysis. The sexual generation of one of our target taxa is ovipositing right now!
Kyle: I chose to read this article by Kittel et al. (2016) because like chelonine wasps; the group I study is also a diverse lineage of parasitoid wasps. I also use a mixture of morphology and molecular data and am interested in calculating divergence times, so the methods of this study could be very useful for me.
In this study, they estimate divergence times using three different methods (fixed-rate, node, and total-evidence dating) and compare those results. Fixed-rate dating uses an estimation of the number of substitutions per million yeas as a molecular clock. Node dating calibrates specific nodes with fossils of a known age. Total-evidence dating includes fossils as branch terminals.
After the authors of this study evaluated the three methods, they found too much variation in divergence time estimates and suggest that multiple approaches should be used whenever possible. They found that all of these methods were very sensitive to the prior on tree age, and that plausible modifications to priors could drastically change the results.
Emily: I have been reading Dragonflies: Behavior and Ecology of Odonata by Philip S. Corbet to prepare for a grant proposal. I have been focusing on environmental factors affecting Odonata larva distribution and have learned some interesting facts about ranges for species in very cold climes. There are odes collected all the way in northern Siberia, and some larvae spend 5 months frozen in ice! Much about the habitat of larval odes can be examined, but it can be difficult to separate the many different factors. Over the coming months, I hope to delve deeper into this idea…stay tuned!
Carolyn: This week I started to dissect male genitalia from pinned Megaspilus and Conostigmus specimens, so I thought it would be a good idea to reread a paper by Mikó et al. (2013). In this paper the authors discuss 48 male genitalia characters and score them for 106 taxa, providing the very first phylogeny of the superfamily Ceraphronoidea. The paper also contains annotated brightfield, CLSM and SEM micrography images of the male genitalia of different species, which I have found very useful.
I have also been working on translating a paper by Paul Dessart (1997) concerning three Conostigmus species found in North America. So far I have translated the introduction, in which Dessart discusses the difficulty of trying to look at Provancher’s holotype specimen of Conostigmus nigrorufus, which was deposited in the Royal Ontario Museum. Dessart was upset that he could not borrow the holotype and complains about the curators jealously guarding their materials as “sacred”, preventing the holotype specimen from being used as a reference.