This week, well it’s all about collecting. We have been working on a number of specimens that have resulted from collecting trips abroad.
Firstly Max and Howard’s collecting trip to Bolivia (and yes, it wasn’t just beetles they picked up!)
Here’s Max collecting something somewhere in South America:
To follow Max's Coleopterising (this is now officially a word!) http://twitter.com/Coleopterist
When the Museum undertakes a collecting trip, it considers many factors. As one of the world’s leading natural history institutions we act as a depository for the world’s species. This has been going on for at least two hundred years, beginning with the inception of the British Museum of Natural History in 1881, though we hold collections that are much older. It makes sense that specimens that are collected from anywhere in the world is held by an institution that can make this knowledge available to all.
Now more than ever, collecting is important because it can give us a base-line of the biodiversity of the planet. So many species are under threat – how do we conserve them if we don’t know what we have, or indeed the habitats in which they live?
From areas in the world that have been well represented by collecting (especially the old British Empire) our collections already provide a base-line data from which to inform conservation efforts. From those countries in the world that are under threat from development /climate change / burgeoning populations, we can collect species (adhering to a scientifically robust protocol), not only as base line data but as a means of helping to defend fragile habitats from development.
Meet Megacephala (Tetracha) spixii ssp. opulenta. This species was newly described to science in 2007 by Naviaux, and is a nocturnal hunter.
It was collected by Barclay & Mendel in Bolivia in 2004 and is now deposited here in the Museum. One more species new to science (and counting) – isn’t that amazing?!
This beetle belongs to the subfamily Cicindelinae of the Ground beetles (Carabidae), otherwise known as the tiger beetles, characterised by their long legs and large, fierce mandibles (biting mouthparts). They are predatory beetles which move very fast and are excellent hunters, for example, Cicindela campestris which is found in the UK, is measured as having a running speed of at 0.62 metres per second!
Cicindela campestris. This image can be found on the National Insect Week website http://www.nationalinsectweek.co.uk
Unlike most other ground beetles, these beetles easily take to the wing, but much prefer to run their prey to the ground. The larvae of the tiger beetles are even more predatory, lying in wait in an underground burrow, until a hapless insect should cross their path.
Aside from their predacious nature they are considered excellent ‘indicator species’ which means their presence in a habitat can be used as measure of habitat quality and in turn biodiversity. This is why we collect and record them.