Field of Science

Cunoniaceae and Friends

The Albany pitcher plant Cephalotus follicularis of south-western Australia. The streaked colours on the inside of the lid attract insects into the pitcher; the incurved teeth around the rim stop them from climbing back out. Photo by Holger Hennern.

The plant order Cunoniales was first established in 1926 to include plants with similar flowers to the Saxifragales but that were primarily woody rather than herbaceous (Dickison, 1975). Woodiness vs. herbaceousness is no longer considered that significant a feature in plant classification (sometimes you can find both in the same genus) and the content of the order has varied between classifications*. Today, the type family Cunoniaceae is included in the order Oxalidales and a taxon "Cunoniales" is no longer used as such. However, one of the two basal clades within the Oxalidales includes the Cunoniaceae and two ex-Cunoniales genera placed in their own families, Cephalotus and Brunellia, together with the family Elaeocarpaceae (previously in its own order) (Matthews & Endress, 2002). With the notable exception of Cephalotus, the members of this clade are mostly shrubs or trees. Economically, the clade is not overly significant: some species are used for wood; some have good reputations as honey sources for bees; a few produce edible fruits but do not appear to have been systematically cultivated for them. Members of all families bear their flowers clustered into (most often cymose) inflorescences; the size of individual flowers in the inflorescences varies between species. Brunellia and Cephalotus both produce flowers with thick sepals and no petals; in the other two families, petals may be present or absent (Matthews & Endress, 2002).

*As have most flowering plant "orders". There's a reason why order-level taxa don't get much day-to-day use among botanists compared to families.

Coachwood, Ceratopetalum apetalum, a member of the Cunoniaceae from eastern Australia. Photo by Melburnian.

The clade formed by these four families has a distinctly southern distribution in southern Africa, South and Central America, south-east Asia, Australia and New Zealand. Elaeocarpaceae are absent from continental Africa but are present in Madagascar. Also, while currently absent from India, they have been recorded from the fossil record there (Crayn et al., 2006). The Cunoniaceae include about 300 species, half in the genus Weinmannia, whereas the Elaeocarpaceae include about 600 species. Molecular studies have shown that an Australian radiation of dry-habitat shrubs previously regarded as the family Tremandraceae is in fact a subclade of the otherwise mostly rainforest-inhabiting Elaeocarpaceae (Crayn et al., 2006). Interestingly, the molecular dating study by Crayn et al. (2006) suggests that the 'Tremandraceae' developed scleromorphy (a suite of adaptations such as hardened leaves that are usually associated with arid habitats) some time before the Australian continent developed its current arid climate. While this may seem counter-intuitive, it is worth pointing out that the fossil record supports the same thing in the evolution of the genus Banksia (Mast & Givnish, 2002). It has been suggested that scleromorphy in these groups was therefore not originally an adaptation for arid living, but for growing in the poor soils of the Palaeogene Australian rainforest.

Prima donna, Elaeocarpus reticulatus. Fringed petals are characteristic of a number of species of Elaeocarpaceae. Elaeocarpaceae flowers are also adapted for buzz-pollination, where anthers do not release their pollen until vibrated by the wingbeats of their pollinating bees. Photo from Kate's Photo Diary.

The oddest member of this clade, however, has to be the Albany pitcher plant, Cephalotus follicularis. Restricted to the south-west corner of Western Australia, this plant bears a superficial resemblance to pitcher plants from other parts of the world, the mostly Indomalayan Nepenthaceae and the North American Sarraceniaceae. All three of these families have evolved the pitcher morphology independently, and can in fact be placed in separate subclasses: Cephalotus in the Rosidae, the Nepenthaceae in the Caryophyllidae and the Sarraceniaceae in the Asteridae. In the Nepenthaceae, the pitchers are developed from trendrils at the ends of the leaves; in the other two families, the entire leaves form the pitchers growing from a ground-level rhizome. In Cephalotus, only the outer leaves of an individual plant are developed into pitchers; the inner leaves remain flat and simple.


Crayn, D. M., M. Rossetto & D. J. Maynard. 2006. Molecular phylogeny and dating reveals an Oligo-Miocene radiation of dry-adapted shrubs (former Tremandraceae) from rainforest tree progenitors (Elaeocarpaceae) in Australia. American Journal of Botany 93 (9): 1328-1342.

Dickison, W. C. 1975. Studies on the floral anatomy of the Cunoniaceae. American Journal of Botany 62 (5): 433-447.

Mast, A. R., & T. J. Givnish. 2002. Historical biogeography and the origin of stomatal distributions in Banksia and Dryandra (Proteaceae) based on their cpDNA phylogeny. American Journal of Botany 89 (8): 1311-1323.

Matthews, M. L., & P. K. Endress. 2002. Comparative floral structure and systematics in Oxalidales (Oxalidaceae, Connaraceae, Brunelliaceae, Cephalotaceae, Cunoniaceae, Elaeocarpaceae, Tremandraceae). Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society 140 (4): 321-381.

Name the Bug # 37

Attribution to follow.

Update: Identity now available here. Photo from here.

The Fall of Dryandra

Banksia nivea, previously Dryandra nivea. Photo from here.

Adam Yates has requested that I do a post on the relationship between Banksia and Dryandra, two Australian genera (but read on) of the plant family Proteaceae. Banksia has a generally coastal distribution around Australia, but is conspicuously absent through the Nullarbor region and northern Western Australia (i.e. where the coast is driest). Dryandra is restricted to the south-west corner of Australia. A close relationship between the two genera has long been accepted, supported as it is by features including the bearing of flowers in compact inflorescences (cone-shaped in Banksia, capitate in Dryandra) and production of seeds with a hard bony endocarp. These seeds are contained in bivalved woody follicles, only a relatively small number of which develop to maturity in any given inflorescence. In most cases, the follicles do not open at maturity but remain closed until heated by the passage of a bushfire; only after the fire do they open to release their seeds. The appearance of remnant Banksia cones with the protruding follicles resembling eyes or gaping mouths has long affected Australian folklore, with the most familiar example being May Gibbs' 'bad banksia men'.

The banksia men, villainous characters from May Gibbs' Snugglepot and Cuddlepie books, in their natural habitat.

However, recent years have seen the species of Banksia involved in a greater controversy than the mere kidnapping of gumnut babies: the kidnapping of an entire genus. Molecular studies have shown that Dryandra is phylogenetically nested within Banksia, rendering Banksia in its familiar sense paraphyletic (Mast & Givnish, 2002; Mast et al., 2005). This has lead to the formal synonymisation of the two genera by Mast & Thiele (2007), an action that has incited its fair share of grumbling among Australian botanists and horticulturalists. However, the alternative—dividing Banksia into multiple genera—would have required establishment of a number of new genera as the type species, Banksia serrata, is among the closer relatives of Dryandra. Also, these new genera would probably not have been easily distinguishable morphologically.

Banksia gardneri, showing both new and persistent cones. Photo by Brian Walters.

Though initially incited by molecular studies, the paraphyly of Banksia excluding Dryandra is also supported by morphological factors. Mast & Givnish (2002) supported a division of Banksia into two clades which Mast & Thiele (2007) recognised as the subgenera Banksia (including Dryandra) and Spathulatae. Members of Banksia subgenus Banksia have beaked follicles while the follicles of Banksia subgenus Spathulatae are unbeaked. Also, most members of subgenus Banksia have the stomata on their leaves recessed into deep pits, though this feature has appeared apparently independently in one small subclade of subgenus Spathulatae (most of which have more superficial stomata). The sinking of the stomata into pits (an adaptation for living in arid environments) is also supported as a derived feature by the fossil record of Banksia sensu lato, the earliest known representatives of which in the Late Palaeocene lack such arid adaptations (arid-adapted banksiines are not known until the Late Eocene).

Images of Banksia ilicifolia, a short-coned potential relative of Dryandra from south-western Australia. Photos by T. J. Alford & C. Hortin.

Within Banksia subgenus Banksia, the clade now known as Banksia series Dryandra falls within a clade also containing other south-west Australian species of what have previously been regarded as 'series Banksia' and 'subgenus Isostylis'. The latter are interesting in this regard as having particularly short cones, and had been compared to Dryandra even when the two were regarded as separate genera. But while the short-coned banksias are close to series Dryandra, they do not necessarily form an exclusive clade with them, so it is uncertain whether their short cones represent a transition between the normal Banksia cone and the capitate Dryandra inflorescence, or whether they have shortened convergently.


Mast, A. R., & T. J. Givnish. 2002. Historical biogeography and the origin of stomatal distributions in Banksia and Dryandra (Proteaceae) based on their cpDNA phylogeny. American Journal of Botany 89 (8): 1311-1323.

Mast, A. R., E. H. Jones & S. P. Havery. 2005. An assessment of old and new DNA sequence evidence for the paraphyly of Banksia with respect to Dryandra (Proteaceae). Australian Systematic Botany 18 (1): 75-88.

Mast, A. R., & K. Thiele. 2007. The transfer of Dryandra R.Br. to Banksia L.f. (Proteaceae). Australian Systematic Botany 20 (1): 63-71.

Name the Bug # 36

Adam Yates chose to request a post topic as his prize for Name the Bug. So what better way to preview his request than with a Name the Bug post?

Attribution, as always, to follow.

Update: Identity now available here. Photo from here.

More than Four and Twenty Blackbirds

The Tristan thrush or Starchy, Turdus eremita, an endemic bird of the remote Tristan da Cunha group of islands in the South Atlantic, scavenging on a dead penguin (starchies have decidedly more catholic tastes than other thrushes). Photo by Lex.

Turdus, the thrushes, is a large cosmopolitan genus of birds found throughout the world except for Australia. The extent of the genus' circumscription has varied between authorities, though most recent authors exclude the ground-thrushes of the genus Zoothera. Conversely, phylogenetic studies have indicated that the previously monotypic genera Cichlherminia lherminieri of the Caribbean and Nesocichla eremita from Tristan da Cunha should be subsumed within Turdus (Voelker et al., 2007). At present, it seems unlikely that Turdus will be further subdivided; as the basalmost species in the genus is likely to be the mistle thrush Turdus viscivorus, which happens to also be the type of the genus, any subdivision would require that Turdus be reduced to a single species and all other species placed in new genera.

The blackbird Turdus merula, a species found throughout northern Eurasia (and introduced to New Zealand). Only the males are black; the females are dark mottled brown and have grey rather than yellow beaks. Photo by Bence Mate.

Of the 60+ species remaining in Turdus, many are widespread and divided into a number of subspecies that may or may not be promoted to separate species by future researchers. As an extreme example, a study on variation between geographically separated populations of the island thrush Turdus poliocephalus, whose distribution extends from Sumatra and the Philippines east to Norfolk Island* and Vanuatu, suggested that there may be grounds for dividing them between nearly forty diagnostic taxonomic units (Peterson, 2007).

*At least, it did. The Tasman Sea populations of T. poliocephalus have, unfortunately, since shuffled off this mortal coil.

The St Lucia forest thrush, Turdus lherminieri sanctaeluciae. Like T. eremita, this is a distinctive species that was previously placed in its own genus. Photo by Jean-Michel Fenerole.

The base coloration of most species of Turdus can be described as 'mottled brown', though notable exceptions (at least as males) include the grey and red American robin T. migratorius and the blackbird T. merula. Most members of the genus are more highly regarded for their voices rather than their looks, an attribute honoured in both the vernacular and scientific names of the song thrush Turdus philomelos* ("lover of song"). As with other speciose songbird clades, variation in song has turned out to be significant in separating closely related species. Both the Príncipe thrush T. xanthorhynchus (Melo et al., 2010) and the black-throated thrush T. atrogularis (Sangster et al., 2009) differ in their songs (among other things) from species with which they were previously considered conspecific.

*Older references may one of the names Turdus musicus or Turdus ericetorum for this species. Both these names have since been suppressed by the ICZN. The history of Turdus musicus is particularly turgid, as authorities had disagreed over whether the name should be applied to the song thrush or to the redwing (now Turdus iliacus) (Mayr & Vaurie, 1957). Both T. musicus and T. iliacus appeared in Linnaeus' 1758 Systema Naturae. Unfortunately (whether because he was unclear on the distinction between the species, or by a simple composition error), Linnaeus confused the two species' descriptions: under T. musicus, he gave a description of the redwing but provided sources referring to the song thrush, while the entry for T. iliacus attached a description of the song thrush to references referring to the redwing! (The significance of Linnaeus' sources to his descriptions has previously been discussed in the sperm whale nomenclature post.) Mayr & Vaurie's (1957) application buried the name Turdus musicus and designated a neotype to fix Turdus iliacus firmly to the redwing.


Mayr, E., & C. Vaurie. 1957. Proposed use of the plenary powers to suppress the specific name "musicus" Linnaeus, 1758, as published in the combination "Turdus musicus" and to approve a neotype for "Turdus iliacus" Linnaeus, 1758, the Eurasian redwing (class Aves). Bulletin of Zoological Nomenclature 13 (6): 177-181.

Melo, M., R. C. K. Bowie, G. Voelker, M. Dallimer, N. J. Collar & P. J. Jones. 2010. Multiple lines of evidence support the recognition of a very rare bird species: the Príncipe thrush. Journal of Zoology 282 (2): 120-129.

Peterson, A. T. 2007. Geographic variation in size and coloration in the Turdus poliocephalus complex: a first review of species limits. Scientific Papers, Natural History Museum, The University of Kansas 40: 1-17.

Sangster, G., A. B. van den Berg, A. J. van Loon & C. S. Roselaar. 2009. Dutch avifaunal list: taxonomic changes in 2004–2008. Ardea 97 (3): 373–381.

Voelker, G., S. Rohwer, R. C. K. Bowie & D. C. Outlaw. 2007. Molecular systematics of a speciose, cosmopolitan songbird genus: defining the limits of, and relationships among, the Turdus thrushes. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 42: 422-434.

Name the Bug # 35

I promise I'll get the answer to this one up faster than last time:

And for the record, I'm interested in the animal on the left.

Attribution, as always, to follow.

Update: Identity now available here. Photo from here.

A Halfway House, Halfway Down Honshu Island

Epiophlebia superstes from Saitama, Japan. Photo by chochoensis.

The insect order Odonata contains two types of insect, the dragonflies and the damselflies. All living odonates can be placed in one or the other of these groups except for just two species. The two species of the genus Epiophlebia, E. superstes in Japan and E. laidlawi in the Himalayas, are inhabitants of fast-flowing streams in montane rainforests. In overall appearance, they resemble a dragonfly (and are more closely related to dragonflies than damselflies) but they retain a number of primitive features shared with damselflies. Their wings are more like a damselfly's, and like a damselfly they are able to raise their wings directly above their body so that the wings are together at rest. In dragonflies, the wings have a much smaller arc of movement, so when the insect is resting the wings are still held extending outwards. Like all other living odonates, Epiophlebia nymphs are aquatic. Like dragonflies, they have their gills internalised within the rectum* rather than external as in damselflies. However, unlike dragonflies, Epiophlebia nymphs do not jet-propel themselves through the water by firing water out of their rectum, but move about by the slower but more dignified method of crawling. Growth of Epiophlebia nymphs is slow and they can take up to eight years to reach maturity (Tabaru, 1984).

*Yes, that's right, dragonfly nymphs breathe through their arses.

Despite lacking a fossil record of their own (probably due to their montane habitat), Epiophlebia seem to have diverged from the dragonfly lineage very early on, at least as early as the Triassic, as indicated by the presence in that time of Odonata more closely related to dragonflies than Epiophlebia (Grimaldi & Engel, 2005). The Japanese name for Epiophlebia superstes refers to their presumed age: they are mukashitombo, the "dragonfly from long ago".


Grimldi, D., & M. S. Engel. 2005. Evolution of the Insects. Cambridge University Press.

Tabaru, N. 1984. Larval development of Epiophlebia superstes in Kyushu. Tombo 27: 27-31.

Name the Bug # 34

Okay, let's have another one, probably much easier than the last couple have been. Anyone recognise this very distinctive insect from Japan?

Attribution to follow.

The leader board currently has Adam Yates in front with five points, followed by tf with three, intercostal with two and Reprobus with one. Remember, oneupmanship is not only permitted, it is encouraged.

Update: Identity now available here. Photo from here.

Conical Problematica

Scattered throughout the fossil record are little mysteries, organisms whose remains have been preserved but which are not obviously relatable to any more familiar group. Either their remains are too simple to preserve much evidence of their affinities (as with the 'tubular problematica' I've discussed before), or they are too distinct from other organisms for their affinities to be clear, or both, or some other reason. Unless they are particularly common or otherwise significant, most of these problematica are probably doomed to remain so. Case in point:

The figures above show Asymmetroconus splendidus, described by Korde in 1975 from the Albian (early Cretaceous) of the Crimea. The photos are of thin sections of the fossils; the complete skeleton would have probably been shaped rather like a wine goblet. The largest specimens of Asymmetroconus were just under 8 mm in height. In the same paper, Korde described a number of similar fossils aged from the Albian to the Danian (earliest Palaeocene), assigning them all to the new order Asymmetroconida. Korde attributed the asymmetroconidans to the Hydroconozoa, a group of similar fossils he had himself described previously from the early Cambrian. Hydroconozoa have generally been assigned to the Cnidaria, though their exact position therein remains obscure. Asymmetroconida resembled hydroconozoans in being small and goblet-shaped, with a conical interior to the cup and a basal globular hollow below the point of the cone. However, they differed from Cambrian hydroconozoans in their skeletal microstructure and in the asymmetry of the cup, with one side much thicker than the other. Rozanov & Zhuravlev (1992) later dismissed the idea of Mesozoic hydroconozoans, stating simply that structures described as such had 'little in common with this group'. No alternative identification of the Asymmetroconida has ever been proposed, and they do not appear to have been properly studied since Korde's original description.

Reconstruction of the hydroconozoan Hydroconus mirabilis, from Rozanov & Zhuravlev (1992). Whether actually related or not, the Asymmetroconida would have probably looked superficially similar.


Korde, K. B. 1975. [Hydroconozoa from Cretaceous and Palaeocene deposits of the Crimea]. In: Shimansky, V. N., & A. N. Soloviev (eds) Razvitie i smena organičeskogo mira na rubeže Mezozoâ i Kajnozoâ. Novye dankye o razvitii fauny pp. 32-38. Nauka: Moscow. [in Russian]

Rozanov, A. Yu., & A. Yu. Zhuravlev. 1992. The lower Cambrian fossil record of the Soviet Union. In: Lipps, J. H., & P. W. Signor (eds) Origin and Early Evolution of the Metazoa pp. 205-282. Plenum Press: New York.

Name the Bug # 33

I apologise that this is not the best possible reproduction of an image. In my defense, it is quite possible that even in the original publication the image quality was poor.

The organism shown grew to just under 8 mm in height, and dates to the Albian epoch of the early Cretaceous.

Oh, and it's only fair to give you all a warning: in the past, I've put up what turned out to be some pretty evil ID challenges. I think I can safely say, however, that this is my most evil challenge yet. Any other challenge I have put up, no matter how evil, was but a room full of fluffy white kittens paddling their paws in pink marshmallow compared to this challenge. If this challenge came across a fluffy white kitten and a bowl of pink marshmallow, it would use the marshmallow to drown the kitten. This challenge feasts on the flesh of virgins while bathing in their blood and idly drawing pentagrams alongside its pool. Rumour even has it that this challenge played a significant role in the chart success of Hear'Say. Seriously, though, if you enter the name of this challenge into Google, you will get one result, and that's the original description from whence these figures are taken.

Attribution, as always, to follow.

Update: Identity now available here. Figure from Korde (1975).

A little Linguipolygnathus

Variants of Linguipolygnathus linguiformis over time, from Bardashev et al. (2002).

Three points for this ID challenge go to Adam Yates who recognised the objects in the figure as P-elements of an ozarkodinid conodont (the first person to identify them as a conodont looses out on points because they didn't supply any supporting comments). Linguipolygnathus linguiformis is the type species of Linguipolygnathus, one of the genera carved by Bardashev et al. (2002) out of the large older genus Polygnathus. I've commented on the taxonomic insanity of Bardashev et al. in a previous post, though the idea of subdividing Polygnathus is not in itself a bad one (and note that if Linguipolygnathus were synonymised with its supposed polyphyletically-ancestral genus Eolinguipolygnathus we'd be left with a single monophyletic genus).

Many discussions of conodonts make reference to their minuteness (I've done it myself in the past) and the preserved conodont fossils are certainly minute. However, I must confess to only realising fairly recently that, just because the preserved fossils are minute, doesn't necessarily mean that the (largely soft-bodied and hence rarely preserved) animals themselves were. Of the two best-preserved body fossils of conodonts available to us, the remains of Promissum are those of an animal about 20 cm long. Even the more modestly sized Clydagnathus, which is apparently more like the usual run of conodonts, would have been about 6 cm long in life: not huge, but still comparable in size to a modern anchovy.


Bardashev, I. A., K. Weddige & W. Ziegler. 2002. The phylomorphogenesis of some Early Devonian platform conodonts. Senckenbergiana Lethaea 82 (2): 375-451.

Name the Bug # 32

Does this mean anything to anyone?

As before, you can get three points for the best answer, two points for second-best and one point for third best. And remember, the best answer will not necessarily be the first with the most accurate identification.

Update: Identity now available here. Figure from Bardashev et al. (2002).

Snails that Never See the Light of Day

Diagrams of Hauffenia tellinii from Bodon et al. (2001). Figure 67 is the shell, figures 68-71 are opercula, 72-75 are male anatomy, 76-80 are female anatomy.

Hauffenia is a genus of freshwater snails of the family Hydrobiidae found in south-eastern Europe (Slovenia, Croatia, adjoining parts of Italy and Austria, etc.) Hydrobiids are a very diverse but very minute group of gastropods: Hauffenia species, for instance, are less than three millimetres in diameter and less than 1.5 millimetres in height. Hauffenia species differ from many other hydrobiid genera in having much flatter shells with only the slightest of turrets. This shape, which commenter 'tf' described as "almost but not quite planiform", is known as 'valvatiform', after Valvata, another freshwater snail with a similar shell. Though the shells of Hauffenia and Valvata are similar enough that the two genera have been confused in the past, the internal anatomy of Valvata shows that it is not a hydrobiid or even closely related. Hydrobiids belong to the major gastropod clade known as caenogastropods but Valvata is a heterobranch, more closely related to garden snails or sea slugs than to hydrobiids (Dayrat & Tillier, 2002). Valvata species are also hermaphroditic while hydrobiids such as Hauffenia have separate males and females.

Distinguishing Hauffenia from other valvatiform hydrobiids is difficult and requires examination of the internal anatomy. Bodon et al. (2001) characterised Hauffenia as possessing a penis with a stylet in the male, while females possessed proximal seminal receptacles only (no distal receptacles) and a reduced bursa copulatrix. Identifying these characters can be difficult because Hauffenia species are subterranean, mostly living in caves and springs in limestone karsts though the Hungarian Hauffenia kissdalmae was recently described from a spring in andesite (Erőss & Petró, 2008), making collecting fresh material difficult. Most early studies on Hauffenia were based on shell morphology only, and species previously assigned to the genus from western Europe or North America were regarded by Bodon et al. as belonging to other genera. Even more doubtful is the assignation of Miocene marine fossils to this genus, refuted by Iljina (2010) on the basis that the Hauffenia-like opercula attributed to the fossils were probably not validly associated, and possibly not even gastropod opercula. Some Hauffenia species, such as H. tellinii in the figure at the top of this post, possess a distinctive knob on the inside of the operculum that distinguishes them from other valvatiform hydrobiids. Earlier authors distinguished separate subgenera in Hauffenia based on whether or not a species possessed such a knob, but Bodon et al. (2010) did not use such a formal distinction.

And if you've just been reading this post to see who won the ID challenge, three points go to 'tf' who recognised the animal as a hydrobiid and provided the diagnostic features; two points go to 'intercostal' who mistook it for a valvatid but pointed out that the presence of an operculum meant that it couldn't be a pulmonate.


Bodon, M., G. Manganelli & F. Giusti. 2001. A survey of the European valvatiform hydrobiid genera, with special reference to Hauffenia Pollonera, 1898 (Gastropoda: Hydrobiidae). Malacologia 43 (1-2): 103-215.

Dayrat, B., & S. Tillier. 2002. Evolutionary relationships of euthyneuran gastropods (Mollusca): a cladistic re-evaluation of morphological characters. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 135 (4): 403-470.

Erőss, Z. P., & E. Petró. 2008. A new species of the valvatiform hydrobiid genus Hauffenia from Hungary (Mollusca: Caenogastropoda: Hydrobiidae). Acta Zoologica Academiae Scientiarum Hugaricae 54 (2): 159-167.

Iljina, L. B. 2010. On the taxonomic position of Miocene valvatiform gastropods and their ecological features. Paleontological Journal 44 (4): 391-394.

Name the Bug # 31

Last week, I put up an ID challenge that I thought would be relatively simple but which was apparently more difficult. Does that mean that today's challenge, which I think is damn near impossible, is really quite simple?

As a clue, the animal shown lives in fresh water. The scale bar represents 1 mm for all figures except fig. 73, for which it represents 0.5 mm. Attribution to follow.

The last few ID challenges have been getting good responses, so I think it may be time to up the stakes a little. Like Alex Wild does for his challenges, I'm going to award points for correct answers. But unlike Alex, I'm not going to have any set rules about how those points are divvied up. Basically, three points will be awarded to the person who gets the closest to the correct identification. Bonus points (one or two points) may be awarded to up to two less precise answers that contribute to the correct identification (say, if someone identifies the family but not the species, or draws attention to a significant diagnostic feature).

But that's not all there is to it, because I'm also going to take a certain degree of inspiration in awarding points from QI. If you want to win points, but find that someone else has already correctly identified the species, don't despair: if you can provide a better answer than the one they gave, you may be able to steal their three-point spot off them! Examples of better answers would be if you provide a better explanation of the diagnostic features, or if you tell me something really interesting about the organism in question. If you do bump the previous leader from the top spot, they'll be knocked down to the two-point position. Even if you don't successfully knock down the leader, you may be able to get the two-point or one-point position yourself. Unless, of course, someone else pushes you out in turn. Also, I should note that all three point-spots are awarded entirely at my discretion: if there are not suitable answers, I may not award one or more of the point slots.

The first person to get a total of ten or more points from successive Name the Bug posts will win the first round. I'm still deciding what exactly you'll win; my current inclination is to give you a choice between requesting a post on the topic of your choice, or of being given a guest post on Catalogue of Organisms.

As this is the first round, I'll be generous in my judgement of which comments are worthy of the points (so please have a go—after all, I'd look a right twit if I didn't get to award any points in the first challenge!) Let battle commence!