This year, everyone working on Ceraphronoidea here at the Frost is going to visit museums across the world to image type specimens. These are the specimens that represent and define every ceraphronoid species known.
When a new species is described, the specimens used for the description must be deposited in a museum so that other taxonomists can study them and use them to verify identifications. It’s easy to do this when the specimens are deposited in the museum you work in, but when the type specimens are in a museum in another country, it’s a bit more difficult. Sometimes it’s possible to borrow type specimens, but this puts the specimens at risk of being damaged or lost in the mail. Oftentimes, the best and only way to study these specimens is to pack your bags and visit the museum yourself.
Many ceraphronoid species were described in the 19th century, long before cameras became available for common use. And while ceraphronoid taxonomist Paul Dessart made some very good illustrations of key species, looking at an illustration is still not the same as looking at an actual specimen.
We are going to visit the museums that hold the majority of type specimens for Ceraphronoidea, and then image those specimens to create photographic catalogues of each type collection. This will give us a chance to study the type specimens and confirm species identifications for the revisions we’re working on, as well as create a resource for future Ceraphronoidea taxonomists to utilize.
This week, we got to try out our new, portable imaging system, consisting of an Olympus CX41 microscope with a Canon EOS 70D camera attached. István used a similar system in the past to image Xenomerus specimens (Mikó et al 2010), and he was more than happy with the results—he thinks they were some of the best pictures he’s ever taken. I tested this system out on a Megaspilus sp. specimen below, and I have to agree– this is a great, portable system for imaging microhymenoptera. Check out the results below!