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Charles Darwin’s Rove Beetle Imaged On-site in Portland, OR

Darwinilus sedaris — the only known sample in existence — collected by Charles Darwin in 1832 from Argentina.

Each year at the annual meeting of the Entomological Society of America, another meeting takes place. A group called the Entomological Collections Network (ECN) meets at about the same time and place, and they put on presentations about taxonomy, systematics, museum collections, interpreting data, and more. Plus, many of the attendees bring insects from all over the world, which they loan to other entomologists for research purposes.

This year, at the 2014 ECN meeting in Portland, OR, a company called Macroscopic Solutions, who are specialists in macrophotography, were there to offer their services to anyone who wanted their insects photographed at super-high resolution and magnification.

Derek Hennen, a master’s student at the University of Arkansas, and Derek A. Woller, a PhD candidate at the University of Central Florida, met up with Macroscopic Solutions’ Mark Smith and Daniel Saftner, at the ECN meeting, where they constructed a portable imaging system capable of taking amazing focal-stacked images of insects.

The Dereks had the privilege of seeing the imaging of a new genus and species of magnificent rove beetle (Staphylinidae) which was collected by Charles Darwin himself on his renowned Beagle voyage.

The beetle was brought across the Atlantic and across the U.S. by Max Barclay, collections manager of Coleoptera and Hymenoptera at the British Museum of Natural History.

“This is a Staphylinid beetle, a rove beetle, collected by Charles Darwin on the voyages of the Beagle in modern-day Argentina,” Dr. Barclay said. “He wrote in his books that he’d collected what he thought was a [inaudible], which is the closest British genus to what it was. He was familiar with British beetles — Darwin’s interest was collecting beetles from his earliest youth — and this was one of the things that was forming the theory in his mind, that he was seeing things in South America that reminded him of things back home. The fact that they were related was something that was becoming more and more difficult for him to not think of as he was continuously seeing resemblances.”

“This one sat in the unidentified material for more than 150 years until Stelios Chatzimanolis came to London just a year ago, and he recognized it as something new, and he asked whether he could borrow it so that he could take it away and describe it, and he named it after Darwin,” he continued. “The genus is Darwinilus … and he named the species after somebody called David Sedaris. It’s Darwinilus sedarisi.”

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Charles Darwin’s beetle is visiting the Oregon Convention Center

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