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Beetle blog

3 Posts tagged with the curation tag
2

Curating Historical Specimens #1

Posted by Blaps Aug 8, 2013

Hello Beetlers!

 

Here Collections Manager Max Barclay talks us through the re-pinning process of historical beetle specimens. Along with Coleoptera Section volunteer Mellissa Williams, we learn about the importance of retaining historical data.

 

The star specimen, Carabus auratus, is 118 years old and is just one of thousands of specimens that were bequeathed to the Natural History Museum from the collection of AA Allen, who was a prolific British collector and expert entomologist.

 

Originally described in 1761 by Carl Linnaeus, C. auratus is not a British native and rarely encountered here. Native to west and central Europe it is a beautiful beetle with a rather unattractive habit of feeding on slugs, snails, worms and grubs; in fact there are records of this voracious predator even attacking young snakes! It's a sun loving species (thermophilic) and can be found on cultivated land, grassland and forest edges. This beetle disappears in the winter, hibernating until emerging to mate in the following spring.

 

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So, come Friday 23 September, it’ll be time for us dusty old curators to kick off our sensible sandals and get fashion forward for this year’s free Science Uncovered event.

 

If you were expecting this:

 

socks and sandals curatorweb.jpg

...think again, because for one night only we are sexy, sophisticated and scientific – like this:

 

sexysocks.jpg

No? If you don’t believe me, you better come along to find out

 

Science Uncovered 2010 was the first year that the Museum opened its doors to the public on such an unprecedented scale. We were expecting a few thousand; but after a few weeks of blogging, twittering and Face-booking over 6000 of you came to see the secrets of the Natural History Museum revealed – some for the first time.

 

And not only our prized treasures of science, but our scientific staff, who, just like our specimens, don’t get out much! My experience last year was incredible, from 5pm to 10pm my colleagues and I did not stop talking – to you! It was simply amazing, invigorating and yes, exhausting to have the opportunity to engage on such a wide scale, and also on such an intimate scale with hundreds of conversations about the Museum, our specimens, and most pertinently our research.

 

Last year I spent my time on the Identification and Advisory Service’s ‘Identification Roadshow’ where we invited you to bring along your natural history finds for on the spot identification. Here I am, looking a little bit overwhelmed, along with Stuart Hine, Richard Lane and Gill Stevens in the foreground, along Dino-way, where this year you will find the entomology station.

 

science uncovered beulahweb.jpg

 

But this year I move over to my first love, the beetles!

 

Here’s one I found in Southeast London this summer, you may recognise it? And it may make an appearance on the night!

 

stag beetle science uncoveredweb.jpg

 

With over 400,000 species of beetles in the world, and the NHM’s collection holding representatives of at least half of that figure, it’s quite hard to choose what we might talk about or put on display on the night. But because beetles are so diverse and occupy so many niches in the natural and unnatural environment we won’t be short on conversation; naturally we will show you specimens that exhibit sexual dimorphism (differences between the sexes), the incredible size range of beetles – from the smallest to the largest:

 

titanus-giganteus-10_90029_1conrad.jpg

 

Here is Conrad, a Scarab expert who will be there on the night, with one of the largest beetles in the world, the aptly named Titanus giganteus which may make an appearance…

 

We will also show you some of the most beautiful creatures in the world, for example this wonderful Plusiotis, a member of the shining leaf-chafer beetle sub-family. Chrysina aurigans (Rothschild & Jordan, 1894): collected by Martin Brendell in the cloud forests of Costa Rica.

max-barclay-chafer-beetle-banner-490_35211_1.jpg

 

 

Here is Max Barclay, who will be available on the night at our entomology fieldwork Science Station armed with field equipment and some examples of what we find when we head off to research remote areas throughout the world.

 

Other colleagues include Hillery Warner, who is expert in photographing our specimens; see some of her work on Flickr here.

 

And the formidable Peter Hammond, previously senior researcher in Coleoptera, and now a Scientific associate, here is Peter, armed with those two most important of entomologist accessories: a pint of beer and a specimen tube (for beetles, of course…!)

 

peter hammond.jpg

We can’t wait…can you?

 

About Science Uncovered 2011:

 

Science Uncovered is a free event on Friday 23 September 2011 at the Natural History Museum.  All events and tours at Science Uncovered will be free but, due to time and space constraints, some will require you to book free tickets in advance.

To find out more visit Science Uncovered on the Museum’s website.

 

The Natural History Museum at Tring, Hertfordshire, will also be holding its own Science Uncovered event. Find out more about Science Uncovered in Tring.

 

Online community

 

To get involved before the night, visit our Science Uncovered online community where you can get previews of what’s happening and join in with discussions and debates.

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Hi Beetlers,

 

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:

katie and beetles web.JPG

 

"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.JPG

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. 

 

lots of drawers web.JPG

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

potosia cuprea web.JPGpretty web.JPG

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.
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Photograph of P. bifenestrata

protaetia bifenestrata web.JPG
P. bifenestrata is another of my favourites. I think it looks like a domino piece!



Blaps

Blaps

Member since: Sep 15, 2009

I'm Beulah Garner, one of the curators of Coleoptera in the Entomology department. The Museum's collection of beetles is housed in 22,000 drawers, holding approximately 9,000,000 specimens. This little collection keeps us quite busy!

View Blaps's profile