Museum Open House 2017

We hope you all enjoyed our Open House last Saturday. We started the morning in the dark due to a power outage in the Upper Arlington area. Just as we moved specimens and displays outside, the power came back on at 10:30 am and we were able to invite visitors inside.

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The auditorium was creeping and crawling with all kinds of arthropods including everyone’s favorite stick insects and scorpions.

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Lots of activities awaited all kids and young-at-heart; among others you could plant a seedling, build your own bird feeder, preserve bugs in goo and get your face painted – some artists were at work here.

Herbarium, insects, tetrapods, fishes and mollusc collections had their doors open to give you insights into research in natural history collection and simply show you some of the cool specimens we have.

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You could listen to sounds of frogs, cicada, racoons and other animals in the Borror lab of Bioacoustics.

Drawing natural history specimens was a hit, and produced some very nice drawings.

We would like to thank our numerous volunteers without whom this event would not have taken place. They help with set-up, explain displays to visitors and take displays down at the end of the day. THANK YOU.

Let us know what your favorite activity or display was. We hope to see you all again next year!

About the Author: Angelika Nelson is curator of the Borror Laboratory of Bioacoustics and coordinates social media and outreach at the museum.

*** We would like to hear from you – Please leave a comment ****

Our big day is tomorrow

Tomorrow, Saturday April 22, from 10 AM – 4 PM we will open our doors and welcome all of you to visit our hidden treasures in the natural history collections of The Ohio State University. Stop by and talk to the curators who meticulously keep these specimens and make them available to students and researchers for study throughout the year. This is your chance each year to see what we do and to support our efforts.

The event is FREE and so is parking. We will have many activities for children including face painting, the very popular bugs-in-goo, a live arthropod zoo … and this year new, for anyone over 15 years, guided sessions on scientific illustration, drawing natural history specimens.

Enjoy some photos from last year events

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The set-up for tomorrow is in full swing, here is what I have seen so far

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About the Author: Angelika Nelson is curator of the Borror Laboratory of Bioacoustics and coordinates social media and outreach at the museum.

*** We hope to see you tomorrow ***

Songsters on the move

I have been teaching a class on Ohio Birds since January during which we visit various field sites around Columbus to look for birds. One main goal is for students to be able to identify birds visually and acoustically by the end of the semester. As you may imagine the birds we have been seeing over this time period have  changed quite a bit.

Not only the species have changed but also overall diversity. Venture out in January and you can call it a good day when you see 15-20 bird species. You want to choose your birding location carefully, a variety of habitats (lake, woodlot, open field, and bird feeder) will increase your numbers. These days however 30 species are the norm, it is migration season! While most of our winter guests such as Dark-eyed Junco and American Tree Sparrow have left us and gone north to their breeding grounds in Canada, many other species that spent the winter south, some as far as Argentina, are on their way to our temperate region.

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. Photo by Christopher Collins, 2017

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. Photo by Christopher Collins, 2017, via www.fb.com/roguebirders

Have you seen a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher yet? Guess what this bird feeds on! Listen for their begging-like calls high in the tree tops. Their long tail and light-gray appearance are a good give-away.

Spectrogram of calls of Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Spectrogram of calls of Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, BLB28872

 

Similarly flitting around in the tree tops are kinglets (family Regulidae). These tiny birds (even smaller than chickadees! they weigh only 10g or 2 nickels) seem to be constantly on the move. One of the two species that can be added to your Ohio list, the Golden-crowned Kinglet, even spends the winter with us. Truly an amazing feat in temperatures that can drop to zero Fahrenheit and below on occasions. A good photo of this species shows off their flashy bright yellow crest bordered by a black eyebrow stripe on each side.

My favorite though is the Ruby-crowned Kinglet, in particular because of its song. It starts out like its close-relative the Golden-crowned with some very high-pitched tsee notes, but then truly distinguishes itself through a jumble of notes, a musical twitter, that seems incredibly loud given the small size of this songster.

Spectrogram of song of Golden-crowned Kinglet

Spectrogram of song of Golden-crowned Kinglet, BLB17541

Spectrogram of song of Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Spectrogram of song of Ruby-crowned Kinglet, BLB11487

 

But do not underestimate the small! My all-time favorite, the Winter Wren, delivers the loudest song (per unit body weight) of all birds, a beautiful cascade of bubbly notes.

Winter Wren. Photo by Christopher Collins, 2016

Winter Wren. Photo by Christopher Collins, 2016, via www.fb.com/roguebirders

While you may get lucky to hear this song in Ohio on occasion from one of the male Winter Wrens passing through, their song is commonly heard in the deciduous and evergreen forests of the north. By the way, did you know that the male hormone testosterone greatly influences bird song? As these males migrate and get ready for the breeding season, their testosterone levels increase and they start practicing their song – even though they are not setting up territories here or trying to attract females.

Spectrogram of song of Winter Wren

Spectrogram of song of Winter Wren, BLB44620

 

There are many ways to appreciate our songbirds. Since I am fascinated by their song I like to record their vocalizations and take these recordings back to our sound lab and look at them. We humans are just so visually oriented that even the song of a Winter Wren may look more beautiful to us than listening to its sound (This is of course not true if you have a musical ear or train yourself to listen carefully and pick out intricate details).

If you are interested in learning how to record bird songs, look at them at home and compare them to each other join me for a Sound Analysis workshop at the nature center at Battelle Darby Creek metro park on Saturday April 29 from 10:30-11:30 am. If you are an early riser, join us on a Bird Walk at 8 am that same day and listen to the bounty of birds singing at this time of the year.

Credits:
Sound descriptions based on the ones given by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, All about Birds.

Thank you Christopher Collins and Jim McCormac for the bird photos.

All recordings are archived in the Borror Laboratory of Bioacoustics. More detailed information for each can be accessed online; just click on each species’ name:
Blue-gray GnatcatcherGolden-crowned KingletRuby-crowned KingletWinter Wren

About the Author: Angelika Nelson is curator of the Borror Laboratory of Bioacoustics and instructor of Ohio Birds each spring.

*** Which birds are your favorites? ***

 

More than just a pretty (fish) face – Do you recognize some of these small fish from your aquarium?

As I mentioned in Monday’s post, species in the genus Anableps post the largest size (at just about a foot long) in an order of rather small fishes, the Cyprinodontiformes. Don’t let their small size fool you, it does not reflect their importance in several areas. Many are quite easy to raise, and some are cultivated for beautiful colors, particularly in their fins. Unfortunately, being popular fishes in aquaria frequently results in introductions to non-native areas from aquarium owners. In several instances exotic populations have become established. Here are some of the more enigmatic species that the OSUM Fish Division has vouchers for, arranged by family:

CYPRINODONTIDAE

Sheepshead Minnow, Cyprinodon variegatus, occur along the Atlantic coast from Massachusetts south to northern South America.  Abundant and easily cultured for the aquarium trade, also used as bait.  One introduced specimen was actually caught (back in the 1950’s) next to the Olentangy Indian Caverns in a small stream tributary to the Olentangy River.

Flagfish, Jordanella floridae, are common in the St. John’s and Ocklocknee Rivers to southern Florida. This species is listed in The Guinness Book of World Records as the fish with the fewest eggs, laying only 20 over several days.

FUNDULIDAE

Members of this family are distributed across North and Central America including some of the Caribbean islands, in coastal and interior low gradient, slow moving rivers, streams, and swamps.

Male Northern Studfish; note the twisted maxilla (posterior portion of the upper jaw bone) that is characteristic of the Fundulidae, photo by Uland Thomas

Northern StudfishFundulus catenatus. Although reputed to be difficult to keep it is popular in the aquarium trade because of the male’s vibrant breeding coloration. This species is native in disjunct populations in several states along the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, but has recently been introduced and established in small to medium streams in Ohio and West Virginia.

OSUM 104822 Fundulus catenatus

OSUM 104822 is the voucher for the first specimen found on the eastern side of Ohio, in little Pipe Creek, across the Ohio River from Graves Creek in West Virginia, where there is a well established and thriving population that is believed to have been intentionally introduced.

Golden Topminnow, Fundulus chrysotus.  Common in Florida, but can be found in low lying swamps and backwaters from North Carolina along the Atlantic seaboard and around the Gulf of Mexico to eastern Texas.

 

Female Mummichog, photo by Dave Neely

The MummichogFundulus heteroclitus, frequently spawns inside mussel shells, a life history attribute that is hypothesized to be facilitated by a very long urogenital sheath.

The Diamond Killifish, Fundulus xenicus, inhabits marine, freshwater and brackish waters of the Gulf of Mexico shoreline from Florida to Mexico.

Bluefin Killifish, photo by Julie Zimmerman

Bluefin Killifish, Lucania goodei

Male Rainwater Killifish, photo by Brian Zimmerman

Rainwater Killifish, Lucania parva

GOODEIDAE

This family contains many species that are critically endangered in Mexico and Central America, due to their endemism to restricted bodies of water that are denigrated by anthropological modifications.

Tuxpan SplitfinAlldontichthys tamazulae, is endemic to the Rio Tuxpan in the State of Jalisco, Mexico.

Butterfly SplitfinAmeca splendens, is endemic to the State of Jalisco, Mexico, raised and sold commercially to the aquarium trade.

Redtail Splitfin, Xenotoca eiseni, are listed as endangered and declining.  The species was split as recently as 2016 to add two new species from the original distributions, where the critically endangered X. lyonsi is found in the Tuxpan and Tamazula Rivers and the critically endangered X. doadrioi in the “endorheic region of Metzatlan in the state of Jalisco, Mexico”.

POECILIIDAE

Possibly due to the ease of breeding, this family contains many popular aquarium species like guppies and swordtails.  One species, Poeciliopsis latidens, lives in marine waters, although several others are secondary freshwater species.

Sailfin MollyPoecilia latipinna, is native to coastal lowlands from North Carolina to Vera Cruz, Mexico, but has been introduced to many countries with “adverse ecological impacts” reported.

Variable Platy, Xiphophorus varietus, is endemic to Mexico but is another popular aquarium fish that has been carelessly introduced with resultant harmful ecological impacts (for this species the impacts are primarily competition with native fishes for resources).  These and several other species in the genus Xiphophorus are listed as exotic pests by governmental agencies.

The fact that many cyprinodontiforms (and cichlids) are tolerant to higher salinities as opposed to the primarily freshwater orders of fishes has made them the subject of biogeographical studies particularly for dispersal from one stream to another along coastal areas.  It is hypothesized that their adaptability to variable habitat conditions facilitated their invasion and predominance of the Central American fish fauna as they made their way across the narrow, open waters from South America to Central America before the rise of the Panamanian isthmus.  This hypothesis, formulated by ichthyologist George S. Meyers in the mid ’60s, has been strengthened by genetic work in the current decade.

Photo Credits:
All photos of museum specimens were taken by Marc Kibbey; other photos with permission of members of the North American Native Fishes Association (NANFA.org).

Detailed information for each specimen is available through the OSU Fish Division Database.

About the Author: Marc Kibbey is Associate Curator of the Fish Division at the Museum of Biological Diversity.

 

*** Which of these fish species do you have in your aquarium at home? ***

Hey, Four-Eyed Fish!

Sure, those of us who wore glasses when we were younger may have been called “Hey, four eyes!”.  But I wonder if anyone ever took offense to the level of “Hey, you four-eyed fish!”.  ‘Cause that would be combining two insults, the discrimination against an ocular disability and the idea that you were kind of cold…or wishy-washy…well, anyway.  I sometimes get to share the fact that I once caught a Four-eyed Fish, and recently I found out that the species belonging to the Genus Anableps that I caught is rather rare, so I feel even more special!

(Imagine me affecting a British accent here, to make my story sound more adventurous).  “There I was, standing in the river with my doughty crew, when one of the young stalwarts excitedly shouted “Quatros ojos, quatros ojos!””.  Yes, just a few feet away from me cruised the rare and dangerous (dangerous if you’re an insect, that is) Pacific Foureyed Fish Anableps dowei!

In 1999 I accompanied members of my church on a mission trip to the area of Siguatepeque, Honduras, to assist in building cement block housing for victims of Hurricane Mitch (in 1998 Mitch was responsible for the death of at least 11,000 people in Central America) that caused a flood perhaps 40 feet deep in a valley near Siguatepeque.  After the rest of the mission left I stayed behind to travel to the Pan American School of Agriculture near Tegucigalpa, where the fisheries instructor there graciously allowed me to accompany them on trips to waters near the school.

view of Universidad Zamorano

Universidad Zamorano. Photo by EAP Zamorano [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The streams we sampled were the mainstem and tributaries of the Rio Choluteca, the major river on the Pacific slope of Honduras that winds through mountainous terrain until it empties into the Gulf of Fonseca, an estuary shared by El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua.  At a site on the Choluteca, near the village of Zamorano, the school’s students and I seined up the Pacific Foureyed Fish (Anableps dowei).  This was a species I’d read about prior to making the trip, so when I heard the student’s cry I became quite excited!

Drawing of a Foureyed Fish

Drawing by Unknown [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The species is named for a Captain J. M. Dow, who skippered the steamer “Guatemala” of the Panama Railway Company.  Captain Dow collaborated with two associates to send over specimens from over 1500 samples in Central America to the U.S. National and the British Museums.

The reason for the Four-eyed Fish’s common name is the presence of two pupils in each eye, one in the upper and one in the lower half, separated by a band of tissue. This enables them to see above and below the water while they cruise at the surface of the water body and makes the Four-eyed Fish extremely difficult to catch with a seine: they are able to see you (or an eagle, or other bird of prey) coming from a long ways away. They are known to leap right over a seine and like fish in another family, topminnows, they dive down to the bottom to avoid capture.  An effective method of capture is described as using a group of fishermen to drive a school of quatros ojos toward a concealed individual waiting with a cast net that is thrown over the school, ensnaring a “bushel full” of the prey.

photo of Largescale Foureyes (from above water)

Largescale Foureyes, Trinidad. Photo by Charlesjsharp [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The Anableps‘ eye is flattened on the top and rounded on the bottom half, with a thickening of the lens from the bottom to the top to adjust for the refractive differences in the two mediums.  The upper pupil casts the terrestrial image through the lens on the lower retina, while the lower pupil’s image is reflected on the upper retina.  The Four-eyed Fish’s eye recently inspired at least one contact lense company to develop lenses that work extremely well both out of and in the water.

 

Scheme of the eyes of a four-eyed fish showing the basic functions

Diagram of the eye of a four-eyed fish, [public domain] via Wikimedia Commons

1. Underwater retina 2. Lens 3. Air pupil 4. Tissue band 5. Iris 6. Underwater pupil 7. Air retina 8. Optic nerve

Swimming at the surface with the head exposed is relatively unusual for fishes in general, but species of this genus show other oddities as well.  Not only do the quatros ojos leap out of and skip along the surface of the water, but when they see terrestrial insects on the banks they will actually leap onto the shallow, inundated bank side areas to capture their prey.  These fish have been observed lying in the sun, sometimes for several minutes, before pushing their way back into the water.  Once they’re out of the water their mobility is severely limited since unlike eels they cannot locomote with a wriggling motion, nor can they push off with their tails to leap forward on land. Unlike mudskippers and the “walking” catfish their pectoral fins are unsuited to pulling themselves along.  So, although they may push themselves along with their tail and pectoral fins to chase their prey, the extent to which they are able to do so is severely limited.

Another anomaly that characterizes anablepids is that their genital organs are oriented either to the left or right, thus they can reproduce only with mates having compatible organs.  They share this character with the group of species to which they are said to be most closely related, the “One-Sided Livebearers”, or Jennysina.  The functional significance of this anomaly is not known.  Anableps species are viviparious, meaning the young are birthed live rather than from an egg deposited in the water.  The eggs are carried to term inside follicles in the female’s ovary but nourishment is provided by a yolk sac within the egg until they hatch and are extruded from the genital pore.  The male of the species has a gonopodium, a modified anal fin ray that develops as the males mature and facilitates placement of the sperm into the oviduct, fertilizing the female’s eggs.

At present three species of Four-eyed Fish are recognized: Anableps anableps, the Largescale Foureyes, is found in South America from the island of Trinidad and Tobago, and Venezuela to the Amazon Basin of Brazil.  Anableps dowei, the Pacific Foureyes, has the most limited distribution of the three species, occurring in Central America from southern Mexico to Nicaragua. Anableps microlepis, the Foureyes, is the most salt tolerant species of the three. They are found in open marine areas in full seawater (also from Trinidad to the Amazon Basin in Brazil) and follow tidal rhythms, moving up into sheltered lagoons and further upstream with the high tides, and back out into open waters as the tide wanes.

Anableps congregate in schools of up to 200 or so as juveniles, with their gregariousness decreasing with age until at adulthood they are as likely to be found as individuals as in small groups.  Some of their known fish associates include characins, pimelodid catfish, poeciliids, atherinids, eleotrids, flatfishes and cichlids.

If you are looking for an unusual fish for your aquarium the species that is most commonly available from suppliers (there are several that raise their own stock), the Four-Eyed Fish, is moderately hardy, but they are comparatively large in size, growing to around a foot in length.  Since they are surface swimmers they do best in a long, relatively shallow tank in fresh to moderately brackish water (depending on the species).  They are gregarious so it is best not to keep them singly or in pairs.  They will probably do well with Sailfin Mollies, bottom-dwelling Gobies, Mudskippers, and even Orange Chromide Cichlids, Archer Fish and Monodactylus.

The Family Anablepidae is placed within the Order Cyprinodontiformes (and, the Pacific Foureyed Fish attains the largest size of any species in that order).  That order contains a bounty of fascinating forms, with a wide variety of reproductive types, a plethora of adaptations to environments, and high importance in terms of biogeography.  My next post will portray some of those very diverse species.

About the Author: Marc Kibbey is Associate Curator of the Fish Division at the Museum of Biological Diversity.

*** Have you ever seen a four-eyed fish? Let us know, leave a comment ***

Ticks in pictures

Some more about ticks.  No, not The Tick comic or the movie Ticks … both may be entertaining, but they feature completely inaccurate depictions of ticks.

Let’s talk about real ticks:  Ticks are rather large mites. To demonstrate this, here is a family portrait:

family portrait of Ixodes pacificus, California Dept. of Public Health

Family portrait of Ixodes pacificus, California Dept. of Public Health [public domain]

From left to right, larva (6 legs), nymph (8 legs), male and female of Ixodes pacificus, the Western black-legged tick, from the west coast (you can see them with the naked eye, therefore they are big).

All members of the family feed on host blood using highly modified mouthparts, but only larvae, nymphs, and females engorge (feed to the point where their body truly swells up).

close-up of mouth parts of Amblyomma extraoculatum, U.S. National Tick Collection (USNMENT00956315)

Close-up of mouth parts of Amblyomma extraoculatum, U.S. National Tick Collection (USNMENT00956315)

Here are some nice examples of engorged females.  Keep in mind that while engorged ticks are easy to find, they are often difficult to identify.

Most of the ticks we encounter in Ohio have females that feed only once.  They engorge, convert all that host blood into a single mass of hundreds to thousands of eggs, and die.

tick with eggs (c) Univ. Nebraska, Dept. Entomology

Tick with eggs, Univ. Nebraska, Dept. Entomology

Ticks in general get really bad press.  Kind of sad, because ticks are very good at quite a few things, like surviving (some can survive hours under water or years without food), or manipulating your immune system (using a dizzying array of chemicals often found only in ticks). On second thought, that may not strike most people as positive, so let me end with a few pictures of beautiful creatures. I already introduced Amblyomma americanum, which occurs in Ohio, the others are African, A. chabaudi on tortoises in Madagascar, A. variegatum usually on cattle. Amblyomma variegatum is the main vector of heartwater, a disease making cattle herding impossible in parts of Africa, but still, very pretty.

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See some more of these specimens close-up, but at a safe distance through microscopes at our Annual Open House, April 22, 2017.

 

Dr. Hans Klompen, Professor EEOBiology at OSUAbout the Author: Dr. Hans Klompen is professor in the department of Evolution, Ecology and Organismal Biology and director of the Ohio State University Acarology Collection.

*** Which of these ticks is your “favorite”? Let us know on Facebook ***

 

Know your ticks: Ohio

Daffodils are in bloom, students walk around in shorts and T-shirts, so it must be the beginning of tick season.  And indeed, the first ticks are out and questing (= searching for a host). This might be a good time to talk about ticks in Ohio.  Ohio is not a major center for tick diversity, but it has some diversity.  Most people only know the three main people biters, Dermacentor variabilis (American dog tick), Amblyomma americanum (lone star tick), and Ixodes scapularis (deer tick), so let’s start with these:

Dermacentor variabilis is perhaps the most widespread and common tick in Ohio.  Immatures feed on rodents and other small animals, but adults feed on medium (opossums, raccoons, dogs) to large (humans) mammals.  Of the “big three” this species is the most tolerant of drying out, and the most likely to be encountered in open areas.  The main activity period for adults is mid-April – mid-July.  D. variabilis is the vector of, among others, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF) and tularemia.  Columbus used to be a focal area for RMSF, but the disease is less common now.  D. variabilis may also cause tick paralysis, although less frequently than the related D. andersoni from the Rocky Mountains region.

American dog tick

Dermacentor variabilis American dog tick

Amblyomma americanum used to be uncommon in southern Ohio, but has increased in numbers and range over the last decades.  This is part of a general trend.  In the eastern U.S., this species is rapidly expanding its range northwards.  All instars, larva, nymph, and adult feed on mid-size to large animals, incl. humans.  Like D. variabilis, females can deposit very large clutches of eggs, but in this case the resulting larvae often stay together.  If you are unlucky and step close to a mass of these “seed ticks”, you may be attacked by hundreds of ticks simultaneously.  These ticks are active in all warm months of the year.  Unlike D. variabilis, “Lone stars” are not common in open areas, preferring more shady and humid sites.  For a long time A. americanum was listed as vectoring few human diseases, but it has now been identified as vector of human monocytic ehrlichiosis and STARI, and possibly tularemia and Q-fever.

lone star tick

Amblyoma americanum lone star tick

Ixodes scapularis appears to be an even more recent resident.  This species was rare or absent in Ohio before 2010, but has now been found in a majority of Ohio counties.  The reason for this sudden expansion is unclear.  This is a relatively small species.  Larvae can be found in summer, nymphs late summer, and adults in fall and early spring.  Immatures tend to feed on smaller sized hosts, e.g. rodents, small birds, while adults prefer larger hosts, such as deer.  However, all instars may attach to humans.  Nymphs are considered the most problematic: they are small (thus often undetected), and can be infected with e.g. Lyme disease (unlike the even smaller larvae).  Like A. americanum, this species prefers shady, humid environments.  New subdivisions build in forests, resulting in large amounts of forest edges with lots of deer, have been a very good habitat for this tick in New England.  Ixodes scapularis has become famous as the vector for, among others, Lyme disease, human granulocytic anaplasmosis, and babesiosis.  Co-infection is common in New England and appears to result in increased pathology.

deer tick

Ixodes scapularis deer tick

So much for the common people biters.  It is important to note that most species of tick rarely if ever bite people.  They prefer different, usually smaller, hosts.  For example, Rhipicephalus sanguineus, the brown dog tick prefers feeding on dogs.  It is one of the few species that may occur indoors in dog kennels etc.  Haemaphylis leporispalustris appears to be specialized on hares and rabbits.  Several Ixodes species, I. cookei, I. dentatus, I. kingi, I. marxi, can be found on small to medium sized mammals, often associated with nests or burrows.  Finally, the so-called soft ticks, family Argasidae, are represented by only a single species in Ohio, Carios kelleyi, primarily found in bat colonies.

Find out more about the ticks’ life cycles and their diseases.

Dr. Hans Klompen, Professor EEOBiology at OSUAbout the Author: Dr. Hans Klompen is professor in the department of Evolution, Ecology and Organismal Biology and director of the Ohio State University Acarology Collection.

 

*** Have you found a tick yet this spring? send us a photo of your specimen on Facebook! ***

 

Examples of type specimens in the OSU herbarium

After reading Monday’s post on type specimens in The OSU herbarium, I wanted to see some of these type specimens, and so, I set up an appointment with Mesfin Tadesse, curator of vascular plants in the herbarium. Mesfin led me straight to the cabinet that houses all type specimens, each in its own red folder. He pulled out the following type specimens, some of which were collected in Ohio.

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I was curious to find out more about these specimens and hence I looked up the labels and the notes left with the specimens. While the labels were provided by the plant collectors, the notes, on the nature of the type, were supplied, at a later time, either by curators or by students who were working towards a Ph.D. degree in plant systematics at the time.

The Red Maple variety viride was collected at Buckeye Lake, Licking county, in 1917, by Freda Detmers, an American botanist.  She knew that the species of Acer are quite variable and she described and named this new variety based on “a young tree, about 9.5 m. tall with smooth light gray bark” that she found on  Cranberry Island in Buckeye Lake. You can see a photograph of the tree posted with the type specimen. She published her description in the Ohio Journal of Science 19: 235-236.

The variety subinermis of the Devil’s Walkingstick Aralia spinosa was described by Harold Moldenke, another American botanist / txaonomist. He collected this particualr specimen as an escape from cultivation along a fence, North Appalachian Experimental Watershed, near Coshocton, Coshocton Co., Ohio, on July 25, 1942. It was originally deposited in the herbarium of the North Appalachian Experimental Watershed which was transferred to the OSU herbarium at a later time. He gave the original description in Latin which was the norm until very recently: Haec forma a forma typica speciei recedit petiolis rhachidibusque costisque foliolorum inermibus; caulibus ramisque subinermibus vel paullo armatis (in case you are not fluent in Latin, check the translation at the bottom of this post).

Of course I was intrigued by my name’s sake California Angelica Angelica callii, a plant collected at an elevation of 4,600 feet near Sequoia National Park on 18 October 1965 (almost to the date and 10 years before I was born). The plant was so named in honor of Tracey and Viola Call, the collectors of the type specimens deposited both in the University of California Herbarium (UC: holotype) and in The Ohio State University Herbarium (OS: isotype).

map with exact location marked where the isotype specimen for Angelica callii was found in 1965

Exact location where the isotype specimen for Angelica callii was found in 1965

The map shows the exact location of where this isotype specimen of Angelica callii was found.

Did you know that the tree houseleek is a succulent, subtropical plant? The holotype held at the OSU herbarium was collected in the Canary Islands in 1984.

The description and the wonderful drawing of the variety of maidenhair fern Adiantum pedatum var. laciniatum was published in the 10th volume of the Ohio Naturalist in 1910. Lewis Sylvester Hopkins – you guessed right – another American botanist, described this variety as follows: “For several years while collecting in the woods of Wayne County, Ohio, I have noted here and there occasional plants of Adiantum pedatum L. whose fronds [another term for a fern’s leaf consisting of multiple leaflets] differ very materially from those of the normal type. The difference consists mainly in the normal pinnules [any of the smaller leaflets into which each leaflet of a compound leaf is subdivided] being replaced by linear branching pinnules which are partly fertile and partly sterile at their tips. This transposition may occur either at the end or in the middle of the pinna, more often the latter.

One of these plants was transplanted to the yard of the McFadden homestead in Wooster where it has been under observation for a period of four years. It seems to thrive in its new home and each year has continued to produce fronds of the type described.

The form is probably a sport [slang for a genetic mutant or variant] but as such it seems to deserve a name as it is likely to occur elsewhere. Therefore, I propose the name: Adiantum pedatum L. var. laciniatum Hopkins var. nov.”

Last but not least the oppositeleaf spotflower Acmella oppsitifolia var. repens as described by Robert K Jansen in his article “The Systematics of Acmella (Asteraceae-Heliantheae)” in Systematic Botany Monographs, Vol. 8 in 1985. I will leave the description for you to figure out: “Outer and inner series of phyllaries lanceolate, apex acuminate. Ray and disc achenes sparsely to densely ciliate with short (30-50 µm) straight-tipped hairs; pappus absent. Chromosome number n = 26.

Phenology. Flowering commonly from April to November, except in Florida where the flowering season extends throughout the year.

distribution map of Acmella oppsitifolia var repens

distribution map of Acmella oppsitifolia var repens

Distribution. In moist, weedy habitats, especially along roadsides and stream banks on the Coastal Plain of the southeastern United States (i.e., Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and North and South Carolina) and along the Mississippi River from southern Mississippi to southern Louisiana; sea level to 200 m.

This variety has also spread west and south into western Arkansas and eastern Texas; one disjunct population is known from northern Mexico.”

The neotype specimen in The OSU herbarium was collected in Texas.

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Here are some definitions that may make it easier for you to appreciate the terminology taxonomists use when describing type specimens:

Protologue = Everything associated with a name at its valid publication, i.e. description or diagnosis, illustrations, references, synonymy, geographical data, citation of specimens, discussion, and comments.

Holotype = The one specimen or illustration used by the author or designated by the author as the nomenclatural type.

Paratype = A specimen cited in the protologue that is neither the holotype nor an isotype, nor one of the syntypes if two or more specimens were simultaneously designated as types.

Neotype = A specimen or illustration selected to serve as nomenclatural type if no original material is extant or as long as it is missing.

Isotype = A duplicate specimen of the holotype.

References:  Glossary of terms used and defined in the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature

The University and Jepsen Herbaria specimen portal, University of California, Berkeley (map of Angelica callii)

Original descriptions of these type specimens have been published in the following journals:
Acer rubrum: Detmers F (1918). Two new varieties of Acer rubrum L. The Ohio Journal of Science 19: 235-236.
Acmella oppsitifolia: Jansen RK (1985). The Systematics of Acmella (Asteraceae-Heliantheae). Systematic Botany Monographs, Vol. 8: 1-115.
Adiantum pedatum: Hopkins LS (1910). New varieties of common ferns. The Ohio Naturalist 10: 179-180.
Aeonium davidbramwellii: Liu, H.-Y. (1989). Systematics of Aeonium (Crassulaceae). National Museum of Natural Science (Taiwan) Special Publication 3: 88-89, Fig.29
Angelica callii: (1977). Madrono 24:80.
Aralia spinose: Moldenke HN (1944). A Contribution to Our Knowledge of the Wild and Cultivated Flora of Ohio: I. Castanea, Vol. 9, No. 1/3 (Jan. – Mar., 1944), pp. 1-80

About the Author: Angelika Nelson is the outreach and multi-media coordinator at the Museum of Biological Diversity, on a mission in the OSU herbarium. Mesfin Tadesse edited the text.

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Here is the translation of the Latin description of Aralia spinosa var. subinermis by Harold Moldenke: This form differs from the typical form of the species in having its petioles, rachis, and the midribs of the leaflets unarmed and the trunk and branches practically unarmed or with only comparatively few thorns – just what you thought, right?

Vascular Plant Type Specimens in The Ohio State University Herbarium

Today we introduce type specimens kept in The Ohio State University Herbarium. But first let us briefly introduce the herbarium and what a type specimen of a plant is.

The Ohio State University Herbarium was established in 1891, 21 years after the founding of the university. Since its inception, the vascular plant collections [all seed-bearing plants and ferns], as well as the non-vascular plant collections [mosses and liverworts], have grown rapidly through the efforts of the many plant collectors from Ohio and beyond, and through gifts, exchanges and purchases. The total holdings of vascular plants are estimated at over 550,000 specimens. The collection, having been built up over a period of nearly 126 years, is a state treasure. It continues to be augmented and studied by many experts interested in various groups of plants as well as in some aspects of Ohio vegetation. The herbarium preserves specimens as vouchers to document past and present research studies on vegetation. Such documentation may increase the value of the research study by making it possible for future workers to determine, without any doubt, what plants were used in the original research. An important special case of this is the preservation of specimens of the original plant material that was used to describe and give a name to a new species or sub-specific entity. These are called type specimens and are often simply called “types”. They are specimens on which the naming of plants and plant populations (as variety or subspecies)  are based, and in a sense they serve as the key to the name of a plant. In the event of any discrepancy between independent descriptions of a species or any element of it, now or in the past, researchers can go back to the type specimen, and clarify the matter. For this reason, type specimens are among the most valuable entities in any collection, including the OSU herbarium. The effort is to have only a single type specimen for each name associated with a plant or its population, although in the past, that is, before the adoption of the type concept, many specimens were often used to describe and name a particular plant species.

Because of their value, type specimens are given special care by curators of herbaria. Since a while back an active search has been conducted to find and remove type specimens from the OSU collection for storage in a special cabinet (see photo).  Currently over 470 sheets representing more than 100 vascular plant taxa have been confirmed as type specimens and photographs of types in our collection. Type specimens along with type photographs are, therefore, treasures of all times. Their preservation and safety is one of the priorities in the herbarium. Type specimens are kept in a separate and special case. This precludes unnecessary handling and permits more adequate inspection for possible harm (e.g. insect infestation). The case containing type specimens is placed on a wheeled cart with a sign “TYPE COLLECTION REMOVE FIRST IN CASE OF FIRE” consequently it’s easy to take it out first or quickly, during an emergency.

A greater and more tragic loss of literally thousands of type specimens resulted from the partial burning of the great herbarium at Berlin, The Federal Republic of Germany, in 1943. Type specimens are not, and should not, be used or handled any more than is necessary. Curators of many herbaria are reluctant to send out type specimens on loan to other botanists or institutions. They insist that researchers must first attempt at establishing identities of their research materials with the help of protologues (all original materials associated with a newly published name, including its description, diagnosis, illustrations, synonyms, studied specimens, etc.), the original species description, and the available electronic images of many types in databases of institutions and herbaria.  It is only after these have failed and that the researcher is in dire need of examining particular details of these types, that they are willing to send types on loan. In our previous post, we illustrated how the type specimen of the Ohio Buckeye was brought, not sent by mail, to Ohio from Berlin. Part of the agreement with the Berlin herbarium then was that it will have to be taken from Berlin and sent back to Berlin with a staff member of the department, thus indicating the level of care that the institution placed on its type collections. Today, many of the type specimens kept in The Ohio State University Herbarium are available for viewing online through Global Plants, the world’s largest database of digitized plant specimens. Researchers are encouraged to check this and similar websites first in order to examine a type  specimen, be it from Ohio or elsewhere.

We will show you more samples of type specimens and how researchers make these first descriptions on Friday!

 

Mesfin Tadesse, curator OSU herbariumAbout the Authors: Mesfin Tadesse is curator of vascular plants at Ohio State University Herbarium; Azam Abdollahazadeh is a Research Scholar on a short-term visit to the OSU herbarium.

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Knull, the artist


As we discussed in our previous post, Josef Knull was well-recognized as a curator, a collector, and as an expert in wood-boring beetles. As a taxonomist he studied and described new genera and many new species of beetles in various families.

However, there’s another side of Joe Knull that hasn’t gotten the same attention: his talent as an artist. While moving some old books around the other day, we found a few pieces of what looks like a poster presentation by Joe Knull that provides information on how to draw on Ross board.  This is a textured scratch board for making drawings. A skilled artist, by varying the intensity of shading and, hence, accentuating the texture on the Ross board, can practically bring a two-dimensional drawing to life! According to Chuck Triplehorn, Joe was proficient in various drawing techniques and was particularly good at indicating shape and surface texture through the use of stippling.


Joe’s 1924 Master’s thesis (archived in the OSU Library holdings) contains a number of detailed illustrations of beetle species found in Pennsylvania. Here are some photos of the original plates.

 

Many of Joe’s publications contain original illustrations of specimens, signed with a simple and elegant ‘J.N.K.’ For example, “A new species of Mecas in Texas” includes a beautiful drawing of Mecas linsleyi and “A New Subspecies of Acmaeodera Quadrivittata Horn” a drawing of Acmaeodera quadrivittata cazie. For those interested in seeing more of Joe Knull’s scientific illustrations, PDFs of his publications are available in the Ohio Journal of Science via the OSU’s Knowledge Bank.


We never met Joe Knull in person. Chuck Triplehorn mentions Joe’s wry sense of humor, but overall our image of him was that of a tough, strict, mostly surly kind of guy. That is, until we saw his paintings, the ones he did for fun. There’s a certain vulnerability and playfulness that we did not associate with Knull before and that is very refreshing. There’s certainly more to Joe, as to most of us, than the work we do.

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We thank Sally Wilson, Dorothy J. Knull’s nice, for the photos of Joe Knull’s paintings. She tells us that the paintings hang on her grandsons’ walls.


References:

☘ Knull, J. N. 1924. The Buprestidae of Pennsylvania. Thesis. The Ohio State University.

 

About the Authors: Dr. Luciana Musetti is an Entomologist and Curator of the Triplehorn Insect Collection; Dr. Norman Johnson is Professor of Entomology and Director of the Triplehorn Insect Collection.