Dr Ben Price

Benjamin Price
  • Curator, Odonata and Small Orders
  • Life Sciences department
  • Insects
Natural History Museum
Cromwell Road
London
SW7 5BD

Biography

Employment history

2013 – present

Curator of Odonata, Embioptera, Ephemeroptera, Plecoptera, Mecoptera, Megaloptera, Raphidioptera and Trichoptera in the Department of Life Sciences at the Natural History Museum, London.

2011 – 2013

NSF funded Post-Doctoral Fellow in the Simon Lab, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Connecticut, USA.

2010 – 2011

SABI funded Post-Doctoral Fellow, Albany Museum, South Africa.

Qualifications

Doctor of Philosophy: Entomology; conferred 04/2010; Rhodes University, South Africa.

Bachelor of Science Honours: Entomology; with distinction; conferred 04/2005; Rhodes University, South Africa.

Bachelor of Science: Entomology and Zoology; double distinction; conferred 04/2004, Rhodes University, South Africa.

Professional Activities

Conference presentations

I have presented my research at the following national and international conferences:

2013:    Entomology Collections Network & Entomological Society of America, Austin, USA

2011:    Evolution, Norman, USA; Southern African Society for Systematic Biology, Grahamstown, South Africa

2009:    South African Society of Systematic Biologists Forum, Durban, South Africa

2008:    Evolution, Minneapolis, USA; International Congress of Entomology, Durban, South Africa; South African Society of Systematic Biologists Forum, Bloemfontein, South Africa

2007:    Evolution, Christchurch, New Zealand; Zoological Society of Southern Africa, Potchefstroom, South Africa

2006:    Southern African Society for Systematic Biology, Kruger National Park, South Africa

2005:    Entomological Society of Southern Africa, Grahamstown, South Africa

Curation

Collections

I'm the Curator of Odonata and “Small Orders” comprising: Embioptera, Ephemeroptera, Mecoptera, Megaloptera, Neuroptera, Plecoptera, Raphidioptera and Trichoptera and totalling approximately 500,000 specimens. My current curatorial focus is on standardizing the curation techniques between my orders. Once this is done I can focus on a specimen level database of the collection with the long term goal being a collection which is fully incorporated into the online accessible Museum database and digitized using high resolution macro imaging.

Collection development

I aim to continually increasing the collection through targeted fieldwork, donations, exchanges and through active taxonomic work on the collections by researchers around the world.  In addition to the identified material, the collection contains a large amount of unidentified material which needs examination and incorporation into the main collection. 

Current curatorial projects

The current emphasis is on upgrading the collection, re-housing specimens in unit trays, bringing together specimens from the old 'accessions' material and the main collection, updating the collection database and an overhaul of the layout of the collection to better reflect modern taxonomy. Once this is completed I aim to use Gigapixel imaging technology to provide the research community with high resolution images of the material housed in the collection, enabling researchers from around the world unlimited access to the knowledge housed in the collection.

Research

In collaboration with researchers from South Africa, India, China and the United States I am actively engaged in research on a variety of Insect groups.

Projects

Systematics and Biogeography of Alderflies, Dobsonflies and Fishflies (Insecta: Megaloptera)

The insect order Megaloptera is considered one of the most primitive of the holometabolous insect orders and comprises two families: Sialidae & Corydalidae. The Corydalidae are divided into two subfamilies: Chauliodinae and Corydalinae. Globally there are about 300 extant species. The aim of this project is to review the currently know species and describe species new to science as found. Once the taxonomy has been updated the origin and diversification of the group can be examined using both morphological and molecular markers. This project is in collaboration with Dr. Xingyue Liu (China Agricultural University, Beijing), Dr. Ferdy de Moor (Albany Museum, Grahamstown), Prof. Martin Villet (Rhodes University, Grahamstown), Prof. Fumio Hayashi (Tokyo Metropolitan University, Tokyo) and Prof. Ding Yang (China Agricultural University, Beijing).

More information can be found here: Afrotropical Megaloptera

Systematics and Biogeography of Malachite Damselflies (Insecta: Odonata: Synlestidae)

The damselfly family Synlestidae is currently believed to be comprised almost entirely of endemic taxa found only in the Caribbean, China, eastern Australia and South Africa; a pattern of isolated endemism across four continental faunas which suggests a relict and ancient lineage. The synlestids are recognised as part of the lestoid radiation and current morphological and molecular evidence places them near the Lestidae, Perilestidae and Hemiphlebiidae. This project is in collaboration with Prof. Martin Villet (Rhodes University, Grahamstown).

More information can be found here: Synlestidae

Population genetics of Barbarocthon brunneum (Insecta: Trichoptera)

Only one species of cased caddisfly (Barbarochthon brunneum Barnard, 1934) has been described in the family Barbarochthonidae and it is endemic to South Africa. The aim of the study is to assess the population structure of the species using DNA isolated from larvae and to assess if this is a widespread species or a complex of cryptic species requiring further morphological examination. This project is in collaboration with Garreth Keevey (Rhodes University, Grahamstown), Dr. Ferdy de Moor (Albany Museum, Grahamstown), Prof. Nigel Barker (Rhodes University, Grahamstown) and Prof. Martin Villet (Rhodes University, Grahamstown).

Systematics and Biogeography of Cicadas (Insecta: Hemiptera: Cicadidae)

Cicadas are a relatively small family (~2500 species) of bugs (Insecta: Hemiptera) which have been shown to be useful organisms for examining the effects of distribution, plant association and geographical barriers on gene flow between populations. My research on the Cicadidae focusses on the Systematics and Taxonomy of the tribes Platypleurini (distributed throughout Africa and Asia) and Parnisini (distributed throughout southern Africa and South America). This project is in collaboration with Prof. Chris Simon (University of Connecticut, Storrs), Dr. Krushnamegh Kunte (National Center for Biological Sciences, Bangalore), Prof. Nigel Barker (Rhodes University, Grahamstown) and Prof. Martin Villet (Rhodes University, Grahamstown).

More information can be found here: Cicadidae

Funding

I have been very fortunate to receive research and travel funding from a variety of sources, including:

  1. National Science Foundation of USA
  2. South African Biosystematics Initiative
  3. National Research Foundation of South Africa
  4. Whitehead Scientific
  5. Andrew Mellon Foundation
  6. Society of Systematic Biologists
  7. American Society of Naturalists
  8. Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst (German Academic Exchange Service)

Publications

2013
  • Liu X, Price BW, Hayashi F and de Moor FC ( 2013 ) Systematic revision reveals underestimated diversity of the South African endemic fishfly genus Taeniochauliodes Esben-Petersen (Megaloptera: Corydalidae). Systematic Entomology 38(3) : 543-560 .
  • Price BW ( 2013 ) Dragonflies at the Natural History Museum. Dragonfly News 64 : 20-22 .
2012
  • Pereira-da-Conceicoa LL, Price BW, Barber-James HM, Barker NP, Villet MH and de Moor FC ( 2012 ) Cryptic variation in an ecological indicator organism: mitochondrial and nuclear DNA sequence data confirm distinct lineages of Baetis harrisoni Barnard (Ephemeroptera: Baetidae) in southern Africa. BMC Evolutionary Biology 12 : 26 .
  • Price BW, Liu X, de Moor FC and Villet MH ( 2012 ) A review of the alderfly genus Leptosialis Esben-Petersen (Megaloptera, Sialidae) with description of a new species from South Africa. ZooKeys 201 : 27-41 .
2011
  • Liu X, Price BW, Hayashi F and Yang D ( 2011 ) evision of the fishfly genus Platychauliodes Esben-Petersen (Megaloptera: Corydalidae) endemic to South Africa. Zootaxa 2909 : 1-13 .
  • Price BW, Villet MH, Walton SM and Barker NP ( 2011 ) Using molecules and morphology to infer the phylogenetic relationships and evolutionary history of the Dirini (Nymphalidae: Satyrinae), a tribe of butterflies endemic to Southern Africa. Systematic Entomology 36 : 300-316 .
2010
  • Price BW, Barker NP and Villet MH ( 2010 ) A watershed study on genetic diversity: phylogenetic analysis of the Platypleura plumosa (Hemiptera: Cicadidae) complex reveals catchment specific lineages. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 54 : 617-626 .
  • Price BW, Jenya H and Villet MH ( 2010 ) Summer’s singers: a survey of the cicada (Hemiptera: Cicadidae) fauna of Malawi. FRIM Newsletter 95 : 2-3 .
2009
  • Richards CS, Price BW and Villet MH ( 2009 ) Thermal ecophysiology of seven carrion-feeding blowflies in Southern Africa. Entomologia Experimentalis et Applicata 131(1) : 11-19 .
2007
  • Price BW, Barker NP and Villet MH ( 2007 ) Patterns and processes underlying evolutionary significant units in the Platypleura stridula L. species complex (Hemiptera: Cicadidae) in the Cape Floristic Region, South Africa. Molecular Ecology 16 : 2574-2588 .