Posts Tagged ‘Mecoptera’
Mecoptera: Meropeidae: Merope tuber Newman, 1838
Merope tuber is the only representative of the family Meropeidae in North America. The Australian earwigfly, Austromerope poultoni Killington and the extinct species Boreomerope antiqua Novokschonov, known from the Middle Jurassic in Siberia, are the only other known species in the family (1). The first specimen of Merope tuber was collected in 1837 by Edward Doubleday in Trenton Falls, New York. In 1838, a contemporary of Charles Darwin, Edward Newman, described the species. The holotype is currently held in the Natural History Museum in London (1).
“Meropia” is a Latin modification of the Greek combination “meros” and “opia” essentially meaning “part” of the “eye”. Somma and Dunford (2007) have concluded that Newman named the genus Merope after the dullest of the Pleiades sisters. Its common name, the “earwigfly” is derived from the male genital claspers which resemble the pinching cerci of dermapterans (earwigs). It’s currently unknown how these claspers are involved in the mating process. Females look very similar to males but lack the forceps-like claspers.
Merope tuber is native to the eastern deciduous forests in North America and occurs from southeastern Canada (Ontario) south to Florida, west to Iowa and Kansas (1, 3). The Florida Natural Areas Inventory lists the species as very rare and vulnerable to extinction. Very little is known of its life history and the larvae have not yet been recognized. The larvae of the earwigfly could provide important information about the evolutionary relationships in holometabolous insects (4). The undergraduate Entomology club at Cornell has established the species as their mascot and have made it their goal to find and describe the larval stage! The disjunct ranges of Merope tuber and Austromerope poultoni might have once overlapped in South America and Antarctica but this tie was likely severed over 60 million years ago (5).
The jugum, located posteriorly at the base of the fore wing, is serrated and rubs against the serrated thorax producing sound. The stridulating sounds may be used for defense or to communicate with the opposite sex in mating. Earwigflies are weak fliers, and their flattened bodies may suggest that they live under rocks and in cracks and crevices (4). Adults are active at night (1).
The NCSU Insect Museum has 10 specimens of Merope tuber from North Carolina: 2 specimens from Orange County in 1999, 1 from Henderson Co. and 1 from Duplin Co. in 1984, 1 from Wake Co. in 1987, 1 from Macon Co. in 2007, 1 from Avery Co. in 1936, and 2 specimens from Swain Co. in 1998 and 2001. There are also 2 specimens with label data from “Davenport, WVa” (likely Davenport, Virginia) collected in 1920. Our records extend the range of the species into the Piedmont of North Carolina (the middle 35% of the state)! Since collecting techniques have been greatly improved in the recent past (though Merope is often collected simply by turning over rocks!) the apparent range of the species has been expanded quite a bit.
Collection methods and preservation:
The specimens in the NCSU Insect Museum were collected either in Malaise traps, yellow pan traps, or at light traps. The specimens should be preserved in 95% ethanol or pointed. Spring and summer are around the corner, so start flipping logs and searching through leaf litter around streams for the larvae!!
For more information:
1. Somma, L.A. and J.C. Dunford. 2007. Etymology of the earwigfly, Merope tuber Newman (Mecoptera: Meropeidae): Simply dull or just inscrutable? Insect Mundi 0013: 1-5.
5. Byers, G. W. 1973. Zoogeography of the Meropeidae (Mecoptera). Journal of the Kansas Entomological Society 46: 511-516.
6. Dunford, J. C., P. W. Kovarik, L. A. Somma, and D. Serrano. 2007a. First state records for Merope tuber (Mecoptera: Meropeidae) in Florida and biogeographical implications. Florida Entomologist 90: 581-584.
GBIF — 50 occurrence records, none from North Carolina
Cool photo of a cool (literally) Boreus brumalis, by Tom Murray.
Mecoptera: Boreidae: Boreus brumalis Fitch 1847
(written by Bryan Man, with input from Trish Mullins and Andy Deans)
To introduce you to this week’s insect, I’d like you to imagine yourself walking through a forest in eastern Canada, or New England. It is winter, and the ground is covered in a glistening layer of fresh snow. Among the countless sparkles, you see small dark specks. As you approach it, the object springs away in the blink of an eye. What you just saw was Boreus brumalis, the snow flea.
The genus Boreus was described by Latreille in 1825 and has only four species known in North America – two species found on the east coast, and two more on the west. B. brumalis is one of the two east coast species, identified and described by Asa Fitch in 1847. The other is B. nivoriundus, also first described by Fitch. B. brumalis is classified in the order Mecoptera, which includes the scorpionflies, to which snowfleas certainly bear resemblance, with their long snout and overall body shape. However, unlike most of the other mecopterans, Boreus are brachypterous and live their lives running and jumping about the ice and snow in search of food and mates.
Because they live in such cold environments, it’s important for them to keep nice and warm, especially since they’re cold blooded like all insects. One important way they do this is through their dark black-green coloration, which allows them to absorb a great deal of energy from the sun and convert it into body heat. In fact, they are so well-adapted to the cold that they couldn’t survive the heat if one sat in the palm of your hand!
Even though this species was discovered and named over 100 years ago, there hasn’t been much research published since. Not much is known about their life cycle and habits, though it’s believed B. brumalis are moss and liverwort feeders. The adults appear usually from October through April, and it’s believed that the larvae hatch in early summer and undergo a speedy growth until they pupate at the end of summer. Their mating rituals can be showy at times and usually involve the brachypterous wings found on males.
If you find one of these insects and want to add it to a collection, they are large and hard-bodied enough to be pointed. The species can be found typically on snow throughout eastern North America, either in mountainous areas or during the winter in regions that get snow. The NCSU Insect Museum currently has 48 specimens collected as far north as New York, and south as North Carolina. The 18 North Carolina specimens come from two collecting events, both at Sugar Mountain, in Avery Co.: 7 specimens from 19 January 1978 and 11 specimens from 14 January 1981.
Find out more:
Kellogg, Vernon; Wellman, Mary. American Insects. New York: H. Holt and Company, 1905. p. 236-237.
Dohanian, S. M. 1915. Notes on the external anatomy of Boreus brumalis Fitch. Psyche 22: 120-123.
There are currently no records of this species in GBIF.