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Serendipity at the Smithsonian: The 107-year journey of the beetle Rhipidocyrtus muiri
Date:7/14/2014

Serendipity leads University of Kansas scientists to the discovery and description of Rhipidocyrtus muiri - a 107 year old, lost in collections specimen, which turned out to represent a new genus and species. The long and tortuous history of the enigmatic ripidiine wedge beetle from Borneo is discussed in a recent paper published in the open access journal ZooKeys.

The holotype male, and only known specimen of Rhipidocyrtus muiri, was collected 107 years ago in Borneo but subsequent to this it was transferred among several researchers in the early 1900s. The specimen was dissected and many portions slide mounted, but these were disassociated from the pinned body for more than a generation to be finally put together by chance in 2011 and described as a new genus and species 3 years after.

Taxa within the ripiphorid tribe Ripidiini are both evolutionarily fascinating and woefully under-described. All members whose biology is known are internal parasitoids of roaches as larvae, a lifestyle likely established at least 90 million years ago resulting in highly derived yet incredibly stable morphologies.

"While the tribe has been widely discussed recently, only a handful of extant species have been named in the last half century, leaving the true evolutionary breadth and depth of the clade poorly understood," comments the lead author Zachary H. Falin, University of Kansas Biodiversity Institute.

"The historical aspect of the type specimen itself and how it came to be described is indeed rather remarkable and deserves mention, if only to highlight the role of serendipity (and proper specimen curation) in systematics," he adds about the unusual circumstances of the discovery.

The crux of the story takes place in the Casey Room of the Smithsonian in January, 2011, tho
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Contact: Zachary H. Falin
ksem@ku.edu
Pensoft Publishers
Source:Eurekalert  

Page: 1 2 3

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Serendipity at the Smithsonian: The 107-year journey of the beetle Rhipidocyrtus muiri
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