Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Annaphila decia ~ 03/19/14 ~ Pinnacles

More dead animals.  Hey, don't laugh at my photos, okay?  I should have asked for better lighting; the busy office was incredibly dark.  Getting decent pics is a crapshoot for me, as is evidenced by my crappy photos label.  I have zero interest in photography itself.  However, looking at my photo set compared to the standard is making me feel a bit embarrassed that I didn't take the time to line them up perfectly, properly sized, lighted, etc.  Eh, as it was, it took me a good 2-hour visit to take photos of a few trays' worth of Paul Johnson's Annaphila specimens, some from the Pinnacles National Park collection and some from his personal collection.  Thank you for your time and attention, Paul!

While I prefer alive and natural, over dead and spread, collections do have their uses.  My photos of a live Annaphila from March 9, 2014 match Paul's 4 A. decia specimens, especially compared to the series (scroll down for Annaphila spp.).  There's a distinctive, cartoony sideview of a boy's face on the hindwing, too.  The collection dates were 03/12/02, 03/18/07, and 2x 04/13/06 (yes, yes, I use mm/dd/yy).  That's good enough for me, even though I still don't think they're well represented online and barely match old hand-drawn plates (Hampson Species Index, figs. 7 & 8).  I did find it interesting that a couple more photos were uploaded to BugGuide in the days since my live post.  It's natural, since they're on the wing now.  And, I also located this gorgeous live shot, despite its misspelling (a challenge of online searching).

Alright, I'll admit I was jumping the gun the other day, fantasizing about how I may have accidentally found a previously undescribed species.  It's funny; I'm not ashamed.  Regardless, it reminded me of an item on my bucket list.  I'm not ready to go down that path now, anyways. Someday, right?  

Annaphila decia head on view

I should mention, it's really difficult to spread tiny moths this well.  Spreading takes good dexterity, talent, patience, and desire.  I have none of those qualities.  It's cool how those upright scales (that looked like jumping spider eyes) are still preserved in the spread body.  Now, all I need to do is find me some jumping spiders...

ps 03/27/14 - I am still researching this and may end up personally comparing with U.C. Berkeley's Essig Museum of Entomology original paratypes, which are accurately identified.  There is a potential that my photos, Paul's specimens, BugGuide, and Flickr are all the same, just not A. decia. Crazy, huh?  Go museums!


Cindy said...

Alive jumping spiders I hope.

Imperfect and Tense said...

Oh, Katie, this is a difficult topic for me. Vast collections of dead insects leave me cold and make me ponder upon the question "How do we know if a species is extinct if we haven't identified it in the first place?" If all the museums and private collections are added up, there's going to be some occasions for a threatened species where a tipping point is reached. I understand the scientific need for type specimens and appreciate that without them we probably wouldn't have the species knowledge that we currently do. But... well, it's not something I could do. I like my wildlife alive and free to choose whether it's comfortable with me watching it. Hence the joy we feel at an alighting butterfly or dragonfly on a hand or arm. It's a tricky subject, right enough.

Katie (Nature ID) said...

Yes, Cindy, alive! I want photos of live spiders naturally doing their thing, so that I can compare to the Annaphila moths. Based on Paul's collections, several spp. have the upright scales. I'm looking for spiders from the Inner Coast Ranges (Pinnacles being about the farthest north) AND SoCal deserts. Paul and I are debating why these areas are similar. I'm considering crowdsourcing on Flickr for jumping spider photos from these very specific areas. I'd like to get on it right away, because I have no idea when is the best season to find jumping spiders (assuming there is one). I know a couple people already heading out there for other stuff, so I'm asking them to keep an eye (and camera) out for me. It'll be fun. Spread the word!

Graeme, eh-hem, you do know who you're talking to, right?

I had to walked past the vertebrate collections in order to get to my lab at the CMNH, and I swear I could feel the rustling in the drawers. I know the vertebrate zoo curator rarely collected and readily accepted donations like road kill. In invert zoo, we collected half a million moth specimens as part of a 10-year survey. I believe all the chemicals commonly used back then in entomology contributed to Sonja's early death at age 57. I've handed more cyanide than you can shake a stick at. I left entomology, because it was sucking my soul killing things for a living (is that an oxymoron?).

However, all these collections already exist; can't change that. In all practicality, collections should be utilized. I believe historical collections are extremely important to science and, quite frankly, irreplaceable. The DNA analysis they can do now is incredible. One of the oddest collections at the CMNH (known for Lucy) is their Hammond-Todd Collection of human skeletons of unclaimed Cleveland corpses, complete with death records, from the earlier part of the last century. Due to legal changes since then regarding human remains, no other collection like that will ever be collected again. By being able to compare across many samples, they've been able to discover many things that would otherwise be impossible to study.

With all that said, I'm a strong proponent of simple observation in the field. Before Peterson came out, they shot and killed birds to ID them. You know that, right? Now, look at the lucrative industry of bird watching. Remember, I said you can ID a butterfly by sight, especially if you're familiar with its flight behavior? It's true. This is why I'm so fascinated by cam-traps, not for hunting mind you, but for documenting and monitoring with the least amount of stress to the animal. I have mixed feelings about collaring programs. Nothing is ever perfect, but I believe we're moving in the responsible direction.

Apologies for the treatise, but this topic has taken up quite a bit of my brain space for 18 years.

Imperfect and Tense said...

Katie, no need to apologise, perhaps it's me who should say sorry. I hope I didn't cause any offence with my comments or inadvertently rake over old ashes. I had an inkling of a few of the points you mentioned, so many thanks for the carefully-considered clarification. I nipped in the bud a fledgling career in the chemical industry. At the time it wasn't for the environmental reasons I would use now, but right decision anyways. Yeah, thankfully it's a different world now.

Katie (Nature ID) said...

No worries, Graeme, I took no offense. It's a valid topic to discuss.

Katie (Nature ID) said...

Hey Graeme, I realized I never addressed your question in my haste to post a response of a topic that should have been its own blog post.

I think habitat destruction - in its many forms from development, to commercial ag and harvesting (incl. the oceans), to fossil fuel procurement and use - has a far, far greater negative impact on the spp. diversity of the world compared to any collecting for science (or even hobby).

Where are you in your reading list right now? I just finished Naming Nature by Carol Kaesuk Yoon, which I suggest for your list. It'll be a blog post soon.

I was gently reminded this week by Jerry Powell, the esteemed CA Lepidopterist, of the true value of museums, real museums - type specimens! As much as my Nature ID agenda is to promote online identification from mere photos, with the burgeoning number of resource sites like BugGuide and iNaturalist (my verdict is still out on this site), all told, it still isn't up to snuff. What happens when most everything online agrees with itself, but not with the scientific literature and type specimens? In the 5 years that I've been doing this blog, I've seen vast improvements. So, how do we better connect the old methods with the new?

As a side note, simply being online burns fossil fuels. Grrr...

Imperfect and Tense said...

Katie, thanks for coming back to this. I didn't realise when, on the spur of the moment, I typed from the heart with my reaction to type specimens. I really do understand that they're important and also that loss of habitat is a far greater threat. But, I don't know, habitat destruction is normally carried out by governments, corporations or individuals who see Nature as being in the way. The collecting of specimens is/was somehow an 'own goal', if I can use a football/soccer analogy.

Reading list? I'm on the last book, so your suggestion for more reading is appreciated.

Certainly, these days, we ought to be better at identifying stuff without the problems of past times. But humans are still involved, so who knows, LOL! As far as the energy use of being online is concerned, if it saves long journeys and shrinks the globe so that we all feel connected to each other and the diverse wildlife we share, then I can live with that.

Fortunately, I have 184 trees to plant, so feel inclined to count that as carbon offsetting :o)

Katie (Nature ID) said...

Cheers, Graeme.