Weekly reads 2–19.ix.2016

Carolyn: I’ve been working on trying to identify some structures we found associated with the semitransparent patches in Ceraphronoidea. We spoke to Missy Hazen about what they might be, and she suggested that they might be related to membrane recycling. I’ve been researching membrane recycling since then, and after taking a look back through the Microscopic Anatomy of Arthropods, I think I have finally figured out what the structures we’re seeing are. My guess it that they are lamellar bodies. There’s a good picture in Microscopic Anatomy volume 2, page 665, but I also found the following three papers that all discuss lamellar bodies. They are membrane-bound structures with excess membrane folds that are produced when fat bodies or vacuoles are broken down, and they are involved in organelle recycling, as well as storage and secretion. It seems like there are even lamellar bodies associated with photoreceptors, which is fascinating because we think the tissues underneath the semitransparent patches in Ceraphronoidea might contain photoreceptors.

  • McDermid, Heather, and Michael Locke (1983) Tyrosine storage vacuoles in insect fat body. Tissue and Cell 15 (1): 137–158 DOI: 10.1016/0040-8166(83)90039-3
  • Vigneron, Aurélien, Florent Masson, Agnès Vallier, Séverine Balmand, Marjolaine Rey, Carole Vincent-Monégat, Emre Aksoy, Etienne Aubailly-Giraud, Anna Zaidman-Rémy, and Abdelaziz Heddi. (2014) Insects recycle endosymbionts when the benefit is over. Current Biology 24 (19): 2267–73. DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2014.07.065
  • White, Richard H. (1968) The effect of light and light deprivation upon the ultrastructure of the larval mosquito eye. III. Multivesicular bodies and protein uptake. Journal of Experimental Zoology 169 (3): 261–277 DOI: 10.1002/jez.1401690302

Emily: I read a study published by Fourcade et al. (2014), in which they examine the efficacy of MAXENT models at handling biased locality data. Acknowledging that this is not unusual of species data, the researchers used real and virtual datasets with a variety of biases. They found that AUC (area under the curve), a measure of data fit to the model of species distributions, is not a good indicator of how well the model fits the data. The AUC values were found to be pretty high even when data had strong bias. Fourcade et al. suggest that it is best to ensure that the sample size is large enough to balance out data biases. Systematic sampling, in which a subset of the locality records are picked from the total, can help break up the spatial bias in records. MAXENT already removes records that are in the same grid cells, but this helps remove data that appears to be almost stacked geographically. When I look at data coming from our collection and others, I often think about just how similar the localities must be when they are collected extremely close to one another. However, it is hard to determine exactly how to correct this spatial bias-further georeferencing research and collecting efforts will help!

István: My weekly readings are listed in the Know your Insect course syllabus! Needless to say, it’s been an intense and incredible set of discussions. Watch for dedicated blog posts about each discovery.

Andy: I’m in the throes of ENT 432, so most of my weekly reads are dominated by the topics at hand. This week it is Odonata (e.g., Gorb 1999, Mischiati et al. 2015) and Ephemeroptera, as well as hypotheses concerning the origin of insect wings (Engel et al. 2013).

mayfly clinging to stem of a plant

Great photo of a mayfly at dusk, taken by Bob Fox (CC BY) https://flic.kr/p/H6S81g

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The Great Insect Fair at Penn State – Recap & Photo Gallery

Photo advertising the Great Insect Fair at Penn State Univeristy, September 10th 2016. Held up and beyond is the fair in action. Lots of people moving about from table to table in a large building.

Entomophiles near and far flocked to State College this past weekend for the 23rd annual Penn State University Great Insect Fair. There were bugs to eat, bugs to see, bugs to hold, bugs galore!

The Snider Ag Arena filled with Penn State Entomology faculty, staff, and students who showcased their research initiatives and ran an insect zoo and a butterfly tent. Together with organizations such as the Pennsylvania 4-H clubs, Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, Environmental Protection Agency, Penn State Master Gardeners, the Friends of the Snetsinger Butterfly Garden and others, the arena was filled with interactive insect related displays and activities aplenty.

This year’s theme, Bug Appetit, explored the world of entomophagy – the eating of bugs. Penn State Nutrition Science students offered a variety of insect bites from chocolate chip cookies baked with 25% cricket flour to wax worms and meal worms mixed with caramel popcorn.

At the Frost Museum table, we played into the theme by featuring a pinned display of edible insects of Pennsylvania! Yum. We also related insect muscles to that of chicken and other vertebrates. Additionally we had a praying mantis that gave live demonstrations throughout the day on how to eat grasshoppers.

Close up photo of a praying mantis eating a grasshopper. The grasshopper is in the clutches of the praying mantis's raptorial front leggs and the body is in pieces.

Feeding time for Juliet the Praying Mantis. Juliet gave several live demonstrations throughout the day on how to eat a grasshopper. Photo by Isa Betancourt (CC BY 2.0) Click for source.

A Luna Moth caterpillar takes a rest from munching on Sweet Gum leaves.

A Luna Moth caterpillar takes a rest from munching on Sweet Gum leaves. The caterpillar was brought in and presented by the Monroe County 4-H club. Photo by Isa Betancourt (CC BY 2.0) Click for source.

Black Bess Beetle rests on a dead piece of wood.

Bess Beetles! Another charismatic group brought by the Monroe County 4-H club. Photo by Isa Betancourt (CC BY 2.0) Click for source.

Visitors on one side of a table with various insect display cases. They are interacting with entomology interpretors who are on the other side.

The bustling Frost Entomological Museum table. Photo by Isa Betancourt (CC BY 2.0) Click for source

A researcher stands at a table and holds out an insect speciment to teach a girl scouts troupe about insect muscles

Research Associate, István Mikó teaches a local girl scout troupe about insect muscles. Photo by Isa Betancourt (CC BY 2.0) Click for source

Andy Deans stands at the Frost Museum table and speaks with two boys about wasps

Frost Museum Director, Andy Deans answers question about wasp behavior and nest architecture. Photo by Isa Betancourt (CC BY 2.0) Click for source.

Undergrad student, Jonah Ulmer holds out a Death Feigning Beetle for visitors to see and hold.

Undergrad student, Jonah Ulmer holds out a Death Feigning Beetle for visitors to see and hold. Photo by Isa Betancourt (CC BY 2.0) Click for source

Graduate Student, Emily Sandall introduces visitors to the edible insects of Pennsylvania. There is a display case with pinned insects

Graduate Student, Emily Sandall introduces visitors to the edible insects of Pennsylvania and the benefits of eating insects vs other animals. Photo by Isa Betancourt (CC BY 2.0) Click for source.

We had a blast and can’t wait to participate again next year for the 24th Great Insect Fair!

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The Great Insect Fair

This Saturday, September 10, Penn State University celebrates the annual Great Insect Fair at the Ag Arena from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Stop by and check out the Frost’s exhibit among the fair’s many other entomological activities and attractions. The museum’s theme for this year’s display is entomophagy, the human consumption of insects. Whet your arthropod appetite watching live insect feedings of ant lion larvae and praying mantises. Fuel your hunger learning about the edible entomons of Pennsylvania and the sustainability of biting into bugs. And satiate your cravings for creepy crawlies with our chitinous cuisine.

A nice close-up of a hungry mantis caught eating a meaty insect drumstick grasped in its right forelimb. The remains of the drumstick's associated body are held in its left.

Hope you’re hungry. Photo courtesy of Isa Betancourt.

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Weekly reads 15.viii.2016–2.ix.2016

Carolyn: I’ve been working on Aristotle’s History of Animals as part of a course I am sitting in on, Benoit Dayrat’s “History of Biology”. From the course I’ve learned a lot of background on how Aristotle viewed the world, which is invaluable for interpreting his works. Aristotle was interested in the workings of the universe, which he divided into the supralunary world (celestial bodies; his wording basically translates as “up there”) and the sublunary world (“down here”). He was obsessed with perfection, and thought that celestial bodies such as stars were perfect in that they were eternal and constantly moved in an endless circle around the Earth. He thought the sublunary world was not perfect, but instead imitated the perfection of the supralunary world. He thought that all plants and animals had a soul, but he didn’t define a soul as a spirit. Instead, the soul was defined as form, and he thought that different types of souls imposed their forms on matter to make different kinds of living beings. The soul is not eternal, but imitates eternity through generation or reproduction, where the soul or form is transmitted from parent to offspring. Though these ideas sound very strange, this was the foundation of scientific thinking up until the 1800s.

While Aristotle’s History of Animals is traditionally thought of as a natural history text, a large portion of the text is actually concerned with moriology, the study of parts. The History of Animals includes descriptions of different parts of animals, specifically whether they are dry or moist, hot or cold, and which elements their organs are composed of. This is because Aristotle thought that all matter in the sublunary world was formed from the four elements (fire, water earth and air) and that one element could be transformed into another through the addition or subtraction of heat or moisture. Fire was hot and dry, earth was cold and dry, water was cold and moist, and air was hot and moist.

Emily: After encountering some undetermined Gomphoides Selys, 1854 species in our collection, I decided to look deeper into the genus. I found that Gomphoides appear to have a very narrow range and not much known about their habitats/life history In this paper, Belle attempts to separate South American Gomphidae into 6 subfamilies and their tribes, of which Gomphoides is in the Gomphoidini tribe. His classification is not based on wing venation, as do other keys for this family. He highlights the importance of colored areas in distinguishing subfamilies,specifically yellow and brown patches on their wings. Beyond wing characters, larval characters and head characters, such as occipital plates are also utilized. Gomphoides can be separated from other genera by its stout 10th abdominal segment. I look forward to reading more recent literature about the phylogeny of gomphids and how the genera are split up now.

I’ve also been reading about bioindicators/water quality studies/telos of science, but more on that later!

Andy: This time of year my reading list is dominated by articles that are relevant to what I am teaching in Insect Biodiversity and Evolution. In preparing for a lecture about fossils I read about concretions, old amber, Canadian amber, Burmese amber, and a million other fossil articles. Every year I debate how much fossil knowledge I should include in my course. It’s incredibly important, laying a foundation for our understanding of insect evolution, but we don’t have a big collection. <whispering>And I’m not exactly an expert on the geology of fossils.</whispering> We did add a taphonomy exercise/demonstration to our fossil lab! I’ll let you know how it went.

small tick marks in fine dust, arranged as two parallel lines; they are probably the footsteps of beetles

Beetle tracks in the dust on my driveway this morning. Will these become ichnofossils in the future? Unlikely, but fossils are all I think about this week. Photo (CC BY 2.0) by Andy Deans https://flic.kr/p/LRGZWB

Other readings have to do with how to write effective research and teaching statements. I’m trying to put together my promotion packet, and it is certainly an intensive process! It seems that the majority of guidance focuses on statements for job applications and tenure. What about for promotions? Should it emphasize a different set of values and experiences?

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ENT 432 fieldtrip to Powdermill

group of grad students sitting on stone steps inside a dorm

The 2016 Insect Biodiversity and Evolution class. Photo (CC BY 2.0) by Hillary Morin https://flic.kr/p/LPuPrV

For the last three years I’ve been taking my ENT 432 class to the Powdermill Nature Reserve, in the wild village of Rector, PA, for a 3–4 day adventure in insect observation, collection, and preservation. This year may have been our best yet, especially as we’re settling into a rhythm and learning more about the habitats there. One of our students this year is a wedding photographer, so we also had the best photodocumentation yet. (Thanks Hillary!) Here are a few of the entomological highlights, at least from my perspective:

  • For the second year in a row we collected stalk-eyed flies (Diopsidae: Sphyracephala), which were present in abundance along Powdermill Run; I always thought of these as super rare!
  • Two students collected adult Microdon flies (Syrphidae) – also for the second year in a row! We tried in vain to find larvae in the ant nests at these locations. Next year we’ll get ’em
  • Someone collected a xiphydriid, a family I’ve never seen outside of collections
  • Aquatic sampling was incredibly productive, yielding hydrophilids, dytiscids, naucorids, belostomatids, corixids, notonectids, and all kinds of amazing larvae
plastic bowls along a creek. Each bowl is filled with slightly soapy water

Yellow pan traps along Powdermill Run. These traps yielded stalk-eyed flies (Diopsidae) (!) and Xiphydriidae (!!!). Photo (CC BY 2.0) by Hillary Morin https://flic.kr/p/Lv2Wn9

That’s just scratching the surface, of course. We also collected hundreds of Ceraphronoidea for our ongoing ARTS project. I was impressed by the students’ commitment to developing their collections, as well as their willingness to engage in my natural history learning experiment (Discover Your Inner Darwin). Each student selected a 4 m2 plot in which they patiently observed (and collected) insects. I can’t wait to read their field notes. What kinds of insects did they see, and what were they doing? Did each student map his/her plot? Identify plants there? Which particular insect are they going to identify to species and write a narrative about?

students working at wooden tables in cabin, pinning insects

Students making insect preps. Photo (CC BY 2.0) by Hillary Morin https://flic.kr/p/KZmEbC

Every year I wonder if I should reach out to other insect systematists (or mammalogists or herpetologists or botanists or anyone else) at other universities and try to coordinate our class field trips. Wouldn’t it be amazing to share this experience? Cook meals for each other, teach and learn from each other … Are you up for it? Let me know!

students gathered around a hot light at a bed sheet that hangs from a barn wall. insects swarm the sheet

Students collect at the Hg-vapor light. Photo (CC BY 2.0) by Hillary Morin https://flic.kr/p/LPuQA8

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