The last few months my trusty volunteer Katie and I have been slowly but surely working on a huge re-curation project. And we chose our group well, a very large and tricky genus of the beautiful flower chafers (sub-family Cetoniinae) the Protaetia Burmeister, 1842. In the sub-family Cetoniinae there are approximately 4000 known species, within this sub-family is the tribe Cetoniini which includes 107 genera, of which the Protaetia is one. The Museum collection currently has 271 species, and counting. These beetles are so attractive and collectable they attract a good deal of research, though little is known about their natural ecology. If you would like to find out more about some of the research going on try here: http://cetoniinae.blogspot.com/ and here is the checklist we have followed for the re-curation http://www3.famille.ne.jp/~kazuo/
Here is Katie with a drawer of Protaetia, and she now is going to tell us all about her experience with these beauties:
"I have to say that as I’m not a Coleoptera expert I feel quite honoured to be asked to write in the beetle blog. The current project I am working on is the recuration of a genus of beetles called the Protaetia - I have been working on it one day a week for the last few months. Here is how I have been spending my Fridays.
Recuration of the Protaetia
I didn’t know what the Protaetia were before I started this task but I do now! They are a big genus of chafer beetles that seem to be found just about everywhere in the world. They are currently taking up 35 drawers in the Coleoptera collection and I’m sure that number is set to increase in the near future. They range in size from about 1-3cm long and come in a variety of colours; some very plain and some with very intricate markings.
After looking through all the drawers (what did I sign myself up for?) and making sure that there weren’t any loose body parts or specimens that needed some attention, my first task was to label all the unit trays containing the specimens with the basic taxonomic information (species, subgenus, genus, author etc). Although it sounds like an easy job this actually was the part that took the longest. The Protaetia have undergone a revision since the labels were last written (if they even had a label to begin with!) and most species are now placed into a subgenus (there are approximately 49 subgenera!) and some of the species were sitting under a synonym.
Curation in progress!
Once I knew what was in each unit tray the next task was to arrange them in the correct sequence. First should come the Protaetia that are not in a subgenus and they are ordered according to their geographical location. Then come the various subgenera in alphabetical order; this task was quite an undertaking.The only sensible way to get them in the correct order was to lay all the drawers out over any available desk space – even so the drawers had to be stacked several deep. (Most of the credit for that has to go to Beulah; without her I would have been lost under a pile of drawers!) One important thing we also had to remember was to leave space for later expansion; there are many species in the Protaetia that the museum currently has no meterial for.
Drawers piled up and laid out!
The final ongoing stage is databasing all the species of Protaetia that are present in the collection. When I’m finished each will have basic information on taxonomy, location in the collection, whether any type material is present and the geographical localities of the specimens. I’ve been keeping a count as I go along; I’ve done over a hundred species so far and I’m just over the half way point.
I’ve really enjoyed having the opportunity to work on such a fascinating and varied group of beetles. I wish I could show you pictures of all my favourite species but there are just too many to go into."
Here are a few:
Photograph of P. cuprea ignicollis
Striking colour variability in the Protaetia
Protaetia cuprea is probably the quintessential Protaetia that comes to my mind. This picture shows the subspecies Cuprea ignicollis. The elytra and most of the body are a metallic green and the pronotum and scutellum are a beautiful coppery colour.
Photograph of P. bifenestrata