For course description and prerequisites, please refer to the Department of Environmental Biology course calender.
the information on the current or upcoming term, please refer to the Department
of Environmental Biology course outline .
ENVB*427: Insect Biosystematics
Lectures: GHM 2302 Wednesday, Friday
LAB: Friday , GRHM 1316
1) Overview the science of systematics in an entomological context
2) Overview the taxonomy and systematics of major insect groups
3) Develop practical skills in insect
identification and related entomological techniques
Lecture schedule: This is a small class,
and lectures tend to be flexible, often evolving in different directions
according to student interests. We will start out with a few lectures covering
the basics of systematics on the first few Tuesdays,
then briefly overview the entire Insecta from a biosystematic perspective on Fridays and the balance of the
Tuesday lectures. Here is a tentative schedule:
Introduction, approaches to insect taxonomy.
Apterygota and insect higher classification
Nomenclature and History
Principles of phylogenetics and an introduction to phylogenetic methodology
Homoptera classification and the
the Phthiraptera problem
Anatomy of a revision
Trichoptera and Lepidoptera
Coleoptera, Neuroptera, Mecoptera
Phylogenetic methodology; Dipteran examples
The emphasis in this course is on field and
laboratory experience and the bulk of your mark will reflect the time you have
spent learning to identify insects. There is no final and only one mid-term
exam (worth 15%). The remainder of your mark is based on the following
(1) Required insect
collection. - A collection of properly prepared and labeled insects identified
to family or subfamily plus one group (of your choice, but preferably the
same group you do your literature review on) identified to genus or species.
The collection is worth 55% of the course - 40% based on the number of
correctly identified taxa and 15% based on collection
quality. You will need about 100 correctly identified families to pass the
course, and about 230 correctly identified families to exceed 80%. You will be
provided with bulk insect samples typical of current biodiversity research, and
you may supplement your collection from these samples. Up to 50% of your
collection may be compiled from these samples, but you will get more out of the
course if you work with specimens you have collected yourself. You may substitute identified photographs or
digital images for specimens, but they must be your original images and they must be labeled to the
same standard as specimens. Identifiable artifacts (cases, mines, frass, cast skins, etc) are acceptable as specimens.
(2) Literature review on the taxon of your choice, including a complete search on the taxon name and discussion of recent work on the group.
Ideally, you should combine your review with some hands-on taxonomy with
specimens of your taxon. Include and explain a synonymy for the taxon, and list the abstracting journals etc. used to trace
the taxon name and tap recent literature. You are
encouraged to submit your literature two weeks prior to the final due date, in
which case it will marked and returned to you one week before the due date. You
may then re-submit it on the due date for re-marking if you wish (Worth 25%)
(3) Sample analysis: You will be given one
or more bulk insect samples taken by standard collecting techniques (Malaise
traps, flight intercept traps, or pan traps). Twenty-five different insects are
to be removed from the sample, properly prepared and identified, then used to
write a report on the trap, sample site and included taxa.
The insects removed from the sample may also be used in your collection.
Comment on difficulties encountered in specimen preparation and identification.
Discuss the insect fauna of the time and place the trap was set, and comment on
the limitations of the trap. Don't exceed three pages of text,
it is only worth 5%!
ENVB*427 - LITERATURE REVIEW
Real-life problems in biosystematics often
involve correct identification of an organism, pursuit of all existing
literature on the taxon to which that organism
belongs, and the directed interpretation of the literature on that taxon and its near relatives. For this literature review,
you are to choose a taxon and start off by doing a
thorough library search on the taxon name. You must
trace the origin of the taxon name and ascertain any
changes that name has undergone since the taxon was
discovered. Record all papers relative to the systematics
of this taxon. Record the steps you take to compile
this basic information (i.e. searched Zoological Records 1890-1950, found
revision by Smith published 1949, searched for Smith in Science Citation etc.,
Having compiled a basic list of references,
write a paper on your taxon with respect to the
general subject areas covered in this course. I would suggest the following
A) Nomenclatorial history:
Demonstrate your understanding of changes in name, status, etc. Do not
just copy a synonymy from the literature.
B) Taxonomy: Are there keys
available? To what level and for what region? Have you
tried them out? Some students make this a major part of their paper, including
rewritten or new keys and extensive discussions of the Canadian fauna.
What about speciation, phylogeny and zoogeography? Be critical of existing
literature if there is any; otherwise the field is open for your speculation.
D) Overview the taxon:
What remains to be discovered? What questions would you pursue as a researcher
on this group, and how?
These are only suggestions -- each taxon will lead you in different directions. You should bear in mind that the closer you keep your paper to course content, the more use it will be to you when you write your exam.
ENVB*427 Insect Biosystematics - Labs
Labs in ENVB*427 are open format, but you
are urged to stay ahead of the schedule below. Do not make the mistake of
skipping labs because there are no specific weekly assignments! Help will be
available in the lab all Friday afternoons. Limited space is sometimes
available in the systematics research lab (Rm. 1214)
and you may also use available space during the ENVB*309 labs. Every effort
will be made to give you access to the lab outside the scheduled period.
The emphasis of the lab time should be on
your own collection, which should be organized and error-free by the end of
SUGGESTED LABORATORY SCHEDULE
Week 1 Sort unknowns to order and familiar families.; familiarize yourself with the equipment.
2 Identify all Apterygotes,
3 Identify all Hemipteroids. Use lecture handout to check Palaeoptera.
Slide mount lice, fleas and entognaths not yet identified.
4 Lepidoptera, Trichoptera.
Use lecture handout to check Orthopteroids.
5 Misc. orders - Neuroptera, Mecoptera.
Use lecture handout to check Hemipteroids, finish Lepidoptera, Trichoptera.
11 Work on Diptera,
12 Overview and improve collection.
13 Check things over. Re-key errors.
IT IS ESSENTIAL THAT YOU PREPARE YOUR OWN INSECT COLLECTION PRIOR TO THE COURSE - SOME STUDENTS DO COMPLETE THE COLLECTION REQUIREMENT DURING THE COURSE, BUT YOU WILL ENJOY THE EXERCISE MORE AND GET MORE OUT OF IT IF YOU MAKE YOUR COLLECTION DURING THE SUMMER. INSTRUCTIONS AND EQUIPMENT (DEPOSIT REQUIRED) ARE AVAILABLE IN THE SYSTEMATICS LABORATORY, GRAHAM HALL 1214. YOUR TEXTBOOK INCLUDES KEYS AND GOOD GUIDELINES FOR MAKING AN INSECT COLLECTION.