Introducing the super family, Echinophthiriidae!

The Anoplurans or sucking lice are hematophagous ectoparasites primarily found in terrestrial mammals. However, within the last century, a small group of anoplurans were recently discovered who were adapted to the extreme climatic conditions of Antarctica, infecting pinnipeds worldwide (Leonardi et. al 2015). This group of lice are members of the family Echinophthiriidae, which comprises 5 genra and 13 species!

Within this family, more than half the species belong to the genus Antarctophthirus, making it the most diverse genus of the family. A couple of well-known species found within this genus are Antarctophthirus lobodontis Enderlein, 1909 and Antarctophthirus trichechi (Bohemann, 1865), shown below.

View of Antarctophthirus lobodontis under the microscope.

Antarctophthirus lobodontis, extracted from crabeater seal (Lobodon carcinophagus). Photo by Frost Museum (CC BY 2.0). Click for source.

View of Antarctophthirus trichechi under the microscope.

Antarctophthirus trichechi, extracted from walrus (Odobenus rosmarus). Photo by R. Toro (CC BY 2.0). Click for source.









As you can see from the Antarctophthirus species above, these Anopluran parasites are all adapted to withstand cold marine environments by a thick coating of spines or scales, a similar adaptation taken on by their pinniped hosts. Studies have shown that this remarkable adaptation is indeed most likely due to a long co-evolutionary process associated with the terrestrial pinniped ancestors (Kim 1985). Who would have known?!

Not only does this family serve as a keystone for future co-evolutionary louse-host research, but many scientists are also investigating the potential use of lice as indicators to both environmental changes and hosts’ behavior, ecology, and population dynamic (Smith et al. 1999, 2003; Domack et al. 2003; Vaughan et al. 2003).

Future research looks rather promising and so does Anoplura phylogeny, stay tuned!


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Dragonflies Can be Awkward Teenagers Too

Do you know what a teenage dragonfly looks like? I will sheepishly admit that I did not know before starting at the Frost! The proper term for a young adult dragonfly that has just emerged is a teneral. The Latin root word of teneral, tener, means tender or young. After moulting, an insect is in the teneral stage. An arthropod in the teneral state is described as soft-bodied, as their new exoskeleton has not hardened yet. In addition, an Odonata teneral can often have a paler coloration than their mature adult counterpart. Therefore, one should be cautious about identifying species in the teneral stage, as the colorings can be very different and misleading. However, with an expert’s help in identification, we can see these extreme differences in the two pictures below of the Common Whitetail Dragonfly (Plathemis lydia, Drury, 1773).

A young dragonfly perches on a leaf.

A teneral male Common Whitetail Dragonfly (Plathemis lydia) not showing its true colors yet. Photo by Dan Mullen (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0). Click for source.

Some might say that the dragonfly above is nothing special. But wait there’s more! In the picture below, do you see how the adult is so much more vibrant than its teneral counterpart? I guess the awkward teenage phase exists in dragonflies too!

Adult dragonfly perched on stick.

Aha! So that is what a Common Whitetail Dragonfly (Plathemis lydia) should look like. Photo by Jimmy Smith (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0). Click for source.

After catching a teneral at Ten Acre Pond a few weekends ago I became very interested in this life stage of the dragonfly. You can see in the picture below that the dragonfly I caught had very shiny wings. It could not fly well and was an easy catch. Learning about the life stages of insects is fun, and I encourage budding entomologists to get out there, explore, and maybe find a few tenerals!

A young dragonfly sitting in a tupperware container after being caught.

A teneral I caught at Ten Acre pond. It was not a very good flier… and that is the only reason why I caught it. Photo by R. Davis (CC by 2.0). Click for source.

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Weekly reads 20–

Emily: I received a Google Scholar alert for an article by Cho et al. (2016) and found the title to be particularly intriguing. I am always interested in how museum specimens are preserved/utilized for research, and this study describes a protocol that could be effective in maintaining  vouchered specimens as well as using them for DNA in many collections. I found the idea of storing Lepidoptera in a Whirl Pack for DNA, with the vouchered remainder of the specimen laminated to be a very interesting idea. Laminated wings of butterflies and moths seem to be analogous to having microscope slides of smaller specimens. It is certainly a space-efficient idea, if not accessible for examining the specimen in its entirety after the lamination. With increasing use of collections for molecular work, the development of a standard for the examined specimens will become increasingly important.

Carolyn: This week I spent some time with Chapman’s The Insects: Structure and Function, 4th edition. This book offers a very thorough overview of insect anatomy, exploring both morphology and physiology, and is a must-read for anyone interested in studying insects from the inside-out. I used this book to brush up on my knowledge of insect glands and abdomen morphology in preparation for the work I am doing on investigating the semitransparent patches in Ceraphronoidea.

Andy: I spent some time chasing down references about the stones on our property (again!) and looking for places in Pennsylvania to find arthropod fossils. A friend tipped me off to this great map, PaGEODE, available through the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, and I’ve been obsessively scrolling it. Looks like my rocks are from the Reedsville Formation, rather than Juniata (see my last post about these rocks), but the age is similar. Can one find arthropod fossils in Reedsville rocks? Lehman and Pope (1989) refer to some great trilobites that are apparently from the Reedsville Formation, at Swatara Gap. (Note: I am not convinced this is still understood to be part of the Reedsville Formation.) I’ll have to scout the site as a possible ENT 432 field trip! My quest to find Pennsylvania arthropod fossils continues …

dorsal habitus of several trilobites

Trilobites. A plate from Burmeister (1843), made available through the Biodiversity Heritage Library. See the volume at the BHL and the image (CC BY 2.0) at Flickr.

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Last weekend, the Deans lab got the chance to go to the Pine Barrens of New Jersey, which was mentioned earlier last week. It was an especially exciting trip for me, as I am starting my graduate journey with Odonata in a lab full of Hymenoptera researchers.

Photo of many entomologists in the Academy of Natural Sciences.

In the center of a sea of Hymenopterists (and others)! Photo by Andy Deans (CC BY 2.0). Click for source.

We hit up all kinds of aquatic habitats in the region, including cranberry bogs, winding rivers, and ponds. Dragonflies and damselflies abounded in each, albeit completely different species-niche partitioning for the win! The highlight of my collecting was realizing that I had caught the dragonhunter,Hagenius brevistylus Selys, 1854, a notoriously predatory clubtail dragonfly.

While walking around Pakim Pond, I saw a large yellow blur taking off from a bush, so I attempted to net it with one hand while holding something else in the other. Shockingly, I had caught my first clubtail ever! Jessica Ware identified the specimen, and I felt a real thrill from the chase of the dragonhunter.

A large dragonfly held on a glassine envelope.

Jessica Ware confirming the identification of this male teneral. Photo by Andy Deans (CC BY 2.0). Click for source.

Stay tuned for more dragonhunting adventures, as there are other collecting trips this summer!

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Throwback Thursday: June 23rd

Here’s a handful of images that we’ve posted to our Instagram (@frostentomologicalmuseum) over the past few months. Enjoy the eye candy!

Image of an Odontolabis delesserti specimen.

A rare find- Odontolabis delesserti (Guétin-Méneville, 1843) (Coleoptera: Lucanidae). Image by Frost Entomological Museum curators (CC BY 2.0). Click for source.

Image of a vanilla cupcake with a white chocolate dragonfly perched on top

To celebrate the digitization of over 25,000 Odonates, we brought in desserts on Monday! Image by Frost Entomological Museum curators (CC BY 2.0). Click for source.

Image of a Japanese rhinoceros beetle.

Look at the horn on that Japanese rhinoceros beetle aka kabutomushi! Image by Frost Entomological Museum curators (CC BY 2.0). Click for source.

Image of a polk-dotted Erythroneura specimen

Itsy, bitsy, teeny, weeny yellow polka dot Erythroneura species! Enjoy the sun! Image by Frost Entomological Museum curators (CC BY 2.0). Click for source.

Image of pinning forceps and unit tray of butterflies

Updating the Lepidoptera collection one unit tray at a time. Image by Frost Entomological Museum curators (CC BY 2.0). Click for source.

Image of three delicate Protoneura cupida specimen

Three pretty Protoneura cupida Calvert, 1903 in a row. Image by Frost Entomological Museum curators (CC BY 2.0). Click for source.

Image of a pinned Meloe strigulosus specimen.

For 135 years old, you look pretty good, Meloe strigulosus Mannerheim, 1852 (Coleoptera: Meloidae). Image by Frost Entomological curators (CC BY 2.0). Click for source.

Close up image of an Agapostemon virescens specimen

Augusta isn’t the only place to see a green jacket this week! We think this sweat bee (Agapostemon virescens) looks quite dapper in his! Image by Frost Entomological Museum curators (CC BY 2.0). Click for source.

Microscope image of Cyclocephala lunulata

A beetle eclipse. Cyclocephala lunulata Burmeister, 1847. Image by Frost Entomological curators (CC BY 2.0). Click for source.

Image of a Dynastes titus that is missing its head

Don’t lose your head…it’s Friday! (Male Dynastes titus). Image by Frost Museum curators (CC BY 2.0). Click for source.

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