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Final results: Dungeness Coleopterists’ Meeting 2010

Fourteen coleopterists gathered at Dungeness on 28th and 29th August 2010. I posted an account of the meeting here shortly afterwards but have only recently finished identifying my own samples from the meeting, and collating records from others who were there. A spreadsheet including all our records and a species list can be downloaded here.

To download the keys, left-click the link. This will take you to my Google Docs webpages where you can see an online preview of the document (in which the formatting and pagination isn’t great). From the File menu, select Download and Save the file to your computer to see it in its original form.

This spreadsheet only includes records from myself, Roger Booth, Martin Collier, Andrew Duff and the late Eric Philp. (Apologies to James McGill who did submit his records but I lost them when I hit trouble with my old @carabids.fsnet.co.uk email address).

We recorded 187 species of beetle, and a scattering of invertebrates from other groups (woodlice, bugs, ants, etc.) to bring the total species list up to 212. Perhaps not an impressively long list but awash with rarities, as you’d expect from Dungeness. The list includes 37 Nationally Scarce or Near Threatened species and 4 Red Data Book species; collectively 19.3% of the species had conservation status. That’s about as good as it gets in terms of the proportion of rare and scarce invertebrates in Britain. My highest ever percentage from my invertebrate survey work was 22.8% – from Dungeness RSPB Reserve!

In my account of the meeting posted online just a month afterwards, I wrote:
    “For Dungeness virgins there was much to see but for veterans, the pit margins were disappointing by the high standards of years past. Most people, including myself, have yet to finish identifying their specimens, or send in their records, but as far as I know there were no sightings of any of these carabids: Acupalpus maculatus, Dyschirius obscurus, Bradycellus distinctus, Bembidion caeruleum, Bembidion decorum, Bembidion pallidipenne or Bembidion semipunctatum.”
Well only one species on that list turned up; Bembidion decorum was found by Martin Collier and Roger Booth.

I also wrote:
    “But once all the samples are identified, and the records are in, what’s the betting that Dungeness will surprise us and yield yet another first for Britain?”
I think I may have fulfilled that prophecy but that will have to be the subject of a separate blog …

I’d like to repeat my thanks to Pete Akers and Mark Gurney of the RSPB for hosting the meeting and to Dave Walker for letting us take over the Dungeness Bird Observatory. The insurance for the meeting was provided by the BENHS; without their support meetings like this would not be feasible.

A first for Britain? No.

Compare the two Glocianus weevils in these images (click for large images). I didn’t think they could be the same species …

Glocianus punctiger. A male from Derbyshire, typical of British specimens.

Glocianus punctiger. An atypical male from Sutton Bingham Reservoir, Somerset.

… and I thought my Sutton Bingham Reservoir specimen had to be something new to Britain. But they are both specimens of Glocianus punctiger. That is the opinion of Italian weevil expert Enzo Colonnelli, and there is nobody with greater experience of these species across Europe.

I haven’t found Glocianus weevils very often, though more so in recent years as I’ve started to use my suction sampler more and more routinely. To date I have recorded Glocianus distinctus on 5 occasions (6 individuals), G. punctiger on 4 occasions (4 individuals) and have not yet found the other two British species: G. moelleri and G. pilosellus. I’ve been keying them out using Mike Morris’ RES Handbook (Morris, 2008) but also dissecting males as a matter of routine. The two males pictured here are the only two males of G. punctiger that I have found. I thought I’d been lucky and discovered a species new to Britain but actually I’d been unlucky and found a specimen with really unusual genitalia! Anyway, it seems worthwhile to bring this to other peoples’ attention, especially as this is an extreme degree of variation to find within one species. I will certainly be dissecting and retaining any other male punctiger I find, to learn more about the variability of aedeagal structure in British populations. And as Enzo has said: “variation is the engine of evolution”!

Glocianus punctiger feeds on dandelions Taraxacum, mainly the Section Ruderalia which is by far the commonest Section of this large genus, and mostly includes micro-species which are weeds of lowland areas. Although the host plants are widespread and abundant, the weevil is much more restricted, typically being found in grasslands, waste places, at the sides of roads and tracks, in woods and in open and rough ground generally (Morris, 2008). It occurs very locally throughout England and Wales and has Nationally Scarce (Nb) conservation status.

I am very grateful to Mike Morris for all his help in investigating the identity of the Sutton Bingham specimen and for putting me in touch with Enzo Colonnelli, to whom I am very grateful for letting me have his opinions on my photographs. As ever, I am indebted to James Hogan, Zoe Simmons and Darren Mann at the Hope Department of Entomology, Oxford University Museum of Natural History, for access to their digital auto-montage equipment. The atypical specimen from Sutton Bingham Reservoir was found during surveys of the invertebrates of unimproved grassland habitats for Wessex Water.

Morris, M.G. (2008). True weevils (part II) (Coleoptera: Curculionidae, Ceutorhynchinae). Handbooks for the identification of British insects, vol. 5, part 17c. St Albans: Royal Entomological Society.

One of the most mysterious beetles on the British list!

A fellow coleopterist recently said that Ousipalia caesula “has to be one of the most mysterious beetles on the British list!” I was intrigued, to say the least. So what’s the mystery? Well, there is not a single mention of it in 21 volumes of the journal The Coleopterist. There are only about 14 dots on the NBN Gateway map, and you have to take some of those with a pinch of salt. There’s no evidence that Derek Lott ever found it; in fact I only know one coleopterist who has …

Or should I say, “one other coleopterist”. I’ve just used the OUMNH collections to confirm that some small, blackish-brown aleocharine staphylinids that I collected at Sandwich Bay, East Kent on 3rd July 2012 are Ousipalia caesula.

Ousipalia caesula: demystified

Ousipalia caesula spermatheca

It must be common here as I found 14 in a few minutes suction-sampling on the calcareous dune grassland just seaward of the road to the Prince’s Golf Club at TR360582. I was actually targeting Yarrow, as much as you can target one plant with a suction-sampler in such floristically diverse turf. The habitat fits with Marc Tronquet’s (2006) description for France: “on sandy ground, under lichens and in the flower spikes of Aira canescens“, except that Grey Hair-grass Corynephorus canescens (= Aira canescens) is absent from Kent and more prevalent on East Anglian dunes and a few spots in the Brecks (map here).

So Ousipalia caesula is probably no longer one of the most mysterious. We can’t say that it is a well understood species but it is only averagely mysterious: so many beetles are so poorly known! My guess with Ousipalia is that it is a habitat-specialist of dry, sandy ground with very short vegetation, good cover of bare ground, mosses and lichens, and perhaps favouring calcareous sites. It probably deserves to be regarded as Nationally Scarce, maybe even Red Data Book?

I would be interested to hear from anyone with more information on this beetle.

Thanks to James Hogan and Zoe Simmons at the Hope Department of Entomology, Oxford University Museum of Natural History for allowing me to take these montage photographs with their kit.

Tronquet, M. (2006). Catalogue iconographique des Coléoptères des Pyrénées-Orientales. Vol. 1: Staphylinidae. Supplément au Tome XV de la Revue de l’Association Roussillonnaise d’Entomologie. Perpignan: Association Roussillonnaise d’Entomologie.

Jam tarts and wine gums

Until 25th January I had never identified a lichen for myself, and my experience of the group is based on being shown 4 species at Parham Park in May 2012, including the unforgettable Caloplaca flavorubescens. So on a quick walk round my snow-covered 1km square I decided to have a go at a lichen – something that looks easy and common, to get me started. I picked a twig covered in a familiar-looking yellow lichen and stuck it in my pocket.

As I’d hoped, the yellow lichen was easily identified using online keys as Xanthoria parietina: a very common lichen.

Xanthoria parietina

What I hadn’t bargained for was that, under the microscope there were clearly other lichens on the twig of a much less conspicuous nature. Using this key, I made the one with black “wine gum” fruits Lecidella elaeochroma and Simon Davey agrees.

Lecidella elaeochroma: "wine gum" fruits according to the key, though they remind me of tiny Pontefract cakes!

Slightly more difficult to identify was this species with “jam tart” fruits. With Simon’s help, I’ve got it to Lecanora chlarotera. I was pleased enough with three lichens on my random twig but then as a further bonus, Simon pointed out that the black dots in some of the tart fillings are caused by a parasitic (or lichenicolous) fungus by the name of Vouauxiella lichenicola. Just amazing!

Lecanora chlarotera: with "jam tart" fruits. It's a very insipid-looking jam tart, more like an undercooked bakewell.

There was a negative reaction to a drop of thin bleach.

Lecanora chlarotera under a drop of thin bleach.

No stone unturned

With much less of my time available for natural history since 24th December, I’m making the best of it by staying local and broadening my taxonomic horizons. In fact, today I have spent the whole day studying the wildlife of our back garden and didn’t even make it down to the far end until just before dark! But I have literally left no stone unturned. I have been spurred into action by Andy Musgrove’s “1000 1ksq challenge“: the challenge being to find 1000 species in your chosen 1km square during 2013. It’s a pan-species challenge: invertebrates, vertebrates, plants, fungi, the lot.

I’ve been seriously impressed at how many species people have already racked up for their squares, with Seth Gibson topping the table at the end of January with a mighty 248 species. I’ve also been seriously impressed at the way so many of the participants are taking a truly pan-species approach and boldly tackling Britain’s biodiversity in its entirety. So, the 1000 1ksq challenge has aroused my competitive spirit, and shamed me into trying to identify things that I normally ignore (like lichens, mosses, earthworms, springtails, etc.). Here are today’s results.

First a few photos, then my species lists for today.

My first attempt at identifying a springtail. Originally named as 'probably Pogonognathus flavescens' but Dr Peter Shaw has kindly put me right (23rd Nov. 2015) that this is probably Tomocerus minor (very common), though the teeth on its jumping organ would need to be checked to be sure. Pogonognathus flavescens was way off the mark - it is a northern species, yellow-brown in colour.

Yellow Slug Limacus flavus

Deroceras invadens Reise, Hutchinson, Schunack & Schlitt, 2011. A new name for the species previously known in Britain as Deroceras panormitanum.

Tandonia sowerbyi

A terrestrial flatworm Microplana terrestris. This was a tick, but through administrative oversight: I'm pretty sure I've identified it before.

An overwintering Woundwort Shieldbug Eysarcoris venustissimus (was E. fabricii).

I did manage to identify three species of earthworm from the garden but this was one of at least two additional species that I failed to name.

Just the ‘famous five’: Armadillidium vulgare, Oniscus asellus, Porcellio scaber, Philoscia muscorum and Trichoniscus pusillus/ provisorius.

Polydesmus coriaceus
Cylindroiulus britannicus

Stigmatogaster subterranea
Geophilus insculptus
– a tick! Common and widespread species.
Lithobius microps

Terrestrial flatworms
Microplana terrestris – identified by comparing to Brian Eversham’s photos on flickr. Pretty sure Brian has shown me this species in the past but it wasn’t on my list, so a tick!

Earthworms: identified using the iSpot keys. A completely new group for me and I was amazed at how many species occur in the garden. I identified three but saw at least two others which defied confident identification.
Lumbricus castaneus Chestnut Worm
Lumbricus rubellus Redhead Worm
Eisenia fetida Brandling Worm. A banded worm, common in our compost bin, and curiously malodorous when handled.

Slugs: the MolluscIreland site is very useful for slug identification, with Roy Anderson’s expert ID tips and his photos.
Limacus flavus
Tandonia budapestensis
Tandonia sowerbyi
Deroceras reticulatum
Deroceras invadens (was panormitanum) – thanks to Christian Owen for bringing me up to date!
Arion hortensis/distinctus
– still not sure about these.
Arion rufus – with a bright orange foot fringe. Exhibiting a rocking response, which should be less strong than Arion ater though I’m in no position to judge that.

Oxychilus cellarius
Discus rotundatus
Lauria cylindracea
Cornu aspersum
Hygromia cinctella
Vallonia costata
Vallonia excentrica
Trochulus striolatus

Leistus spinibarbis (Carabidae)
Notiophilus biguttatus (Carabidae)
Tachyporus hypnorum (Staphylinidae)
Lobrathium multipunctum (Staphylinidae)
Xantholinus linearis (Staphylinidae)

Eysarcoris venustissimus

probably Tomocerus minor (thanks to Dr Peter Shaw)

Bryum capillare – leaves became “corkscrew-like” when dry.
Tortula muralis

Common Frog

Brings me up to a mere 117 species for my square.