Entomologists do more....

Peter Rauch peterr at VIOLET.BERKELEY.EDU
Fri Aug 4 16:40:27 CDT 1995

>Date:         Fri, 4 Aug 1995 16:06:39 -0700
>From: Bruce Neill <bneill at LCLARK.EDU>
>Subject:      Re: specimens examined lists, again

>  In the marine
>invertebrates with which I work, specimens are curated by lots.

Certain insect studies may start out by collecting specimens in (large)
lots, but sooner or later these specimens tend to be sorted out into
lots of size one. In addition, many (millions of?) specimens were and
are collected in lots of size one or a few.

>Why can't entomological collections be curated by lots and the specimens
>examined be identified by lot numbers?  Individual specimens might not be
>easily identified, but the population that was examined is.

Entomologists, especially systematists but also ecologists, observe and
record information about single specimens, both in the field and
later.  E.g., they make observations on host plant and feeding
behavior, on mating, on predation/parasitism, time-of-activity,
immediate weather and microhabitat conditions, and a long string of
other data.

In the lab, individual specimens may be kept alive to rear
parasites/hyperparasites, to rear immatures to adults, etc.

In order to associate the observations with the organism that was observed,
it makes sense to mark the individual specimen with its unique identifier
(or more traditionally, to put some of this information on the printed
labels (yes, as small as they are, there is some great data to be
had from insect labels!).

Perhaps marine invertebrate collections don't have such individually-focused
observations as the norm?

As I noted in an earlier message, insect collections seem to be in the
between-world where it's not totally obvious that the individual
specimen should be uniquely labeled, and some disciplines where it's
quite obvious that lot-labels for (e.g., jars full of) specimens are the
way to go. In any case, it is certainly recognized that much data entry
for insect collections can be done on "lots" of insects, before they are
broken up into single-specimen preps and additional data entered.
For the millions of single-mounted specimens from already-broken-up
lots, data entry will have to work from the structure it has available
now (or in the future when next the specimen(s) are handled).

More information about the Taxacom mailing list