On Monday, March 6th, 1665, the first issue of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London appeared. It apparently marked the publication of the first scientific periodical; indeed, the first periodical of any sort. This landmark issue began with “The Introduction,” and I can think of no better way to begin the present launching of our journal, Biologie Und Naturwissenschaft der Käfer, than by quoting that introduction:
|Whereas there is nothing more necessary for promoting the improvement of Philosophical Matters, than the communicating to such, as apply their Studies and Endeavours that way, such things as are discovered or put in practise by others; it is therefore thought fit to employ the Press, as the most proper way to gratifie those, whose engagement in such Studies, and delight in the advancement of Learning and profitable Discoveries, doth entitle them to the knowledge of what this Kingdom, or other parts of the World, do, from time to time, afford, as well of the progress of the Studies, Labours, and attempts of the Curious and learned in things of this kind, as of their compleat Discoveries and performances: To the end, that such Productions being clearly and truly communicated, desires after solid and usefull knowledge may be further entertained, ingenious Endeavours and Undertakings cherished, and those, addicted to and conversant in such matters, may be invited and encouraged to search, try, and find out new things, impart their knowledge to one another, and contribute what they can to the Grand design of improving Natural knowledge, and perfecting all Philosophical Arts, and Sciences, All for the Glory of God, the Honour and Advantage of these Kingdoms, and the Universal Good of Mankind.|
In the course of human events, it sometimes becomes necessary to expand horizons, to peer beyond the tangled web of politics, economics, and mechanics that constitutes so much of people’s lives. On the other side of that web lies a myriad of worlds – open to those who choose to see. Some of these worlds are abstract, clinging to the lacey dendrites of our brains: glance at the colourful quarks, and clean vector spaces. Other worlds touch our senses more directly: the effervescent Io, coldly marbled Europa, the scattered stars beyond, the Earth within. Another universe of worlds, close at hand, lies cradled on our own planet, a universe we call Life. The quick, excited world of a savanna sparrow; the hot, steamy world of a brilliant blue butterfly in the sunlight of a tropical rainforest; the slow, cool world of a glass-woven sea-squirt; the changing, tidal world of a white-lined ribbon worm; the musty primaeval world of a ground beetle’s moss-covered pathways.
Seeing the simple purity and honesty of these creatures can soothe the mind, and warm the heart. For these little denizens of hill and hummock, nook and cranny, are all caught up in the game of life, and they look as if they are having just a grand old time at it! One of the sorts of creatures that have evidently enjoyed life a great deal are the beetles. Often dreary, but often colourful, some small, some large, they like a dragon’s horde of living jewels are sprinkled upon the landscape. From the huge Goliathus of Africa, to the minute Gehringia of the Rocky Mountains, beetles of millions of species have been going about their lives and deaths for eon upon eon. These are the creatures upon which we will focus our attention.
During the exciting months of preparing our first issue, with the shuffling of papers, meetings, and fervent tapping of typewriters, colleagues with expectant looks upon their faces have knocked upon my door, and asked, “I have a paper, just a short one, that I have written; it has the flavour of your new journal in its words, and I would like to offer it as a contribution, if I may, but, alas, it is not about beetles at all, but another group of animals entirely!” And I respond, “Have no fear! Beetles live in a network of life, and all aspects of that network, however indirectly, touch upon beetles. And to understand beetles, as a whole, as part of their universe, we need to understand the universe. Papers on geography, botany, even astronomy and metaphysics, are all most welcome.” While our focus is on beetles, we envisage a much broader world in the pages of our journal.
I, and my co-editors, invite you to venture forth into the following pages, and learn the wonders of beetles and their universe.
David R. Maddison
Is God a Carabid and if so Why?
John H. Acorn
Department of Entomology
University of Alberta
T6G 2E3, CANADA
Hello, friends, and how long has it been since we last chose to venture together into the uncharted regions of our common pursuit of answers to questions rarely asked by members of our modern world? Too long! That would be my answer, and so, let us waste no further time in petty introduction, and proceed to a query which I feel assured will pique all but the very dullest intellect. And what, you ask, is this inquiry? Well let me first present you with the same seed of inspiration which I myself came upon just the other day, while reading an excellent small volume (the title of which need not concern us here). Herein, on page 72, near the bottom, I found the following passage which was no doubt derived from yet another volume. The passage reads, “Jesus said…split wood: I am there. Lift up the stone, and you will find me there.”
Now, what are we to make of such a statement? Jesus, the acclaimed son of God, the supreme creator of the universe itself, advising us to seek Him out under stones and in the heart of wood. Aha! you may say, He did not really mean that one would find Him in a substantial form in these places, but rather that He is a mysterious being with powers beyond our comprehension, and that if He says He is under a stone, we must be prepared to take His word for it. And yet, I respond, there is surely a difference between saying “I am there: ” (i.e. in wood) and “You will find me there” (under stones). Certainly, in the former instance our powers may not be sufficient to locate Jesus, but in the latter He assures us that we will find Him there.
At this timely juncture, I think it advisable to point out a basic empirical premise which underlies this entire controversy. You, dear reader, may share with me the satisfaction of having first-hand experience with both wood splitting and stone turning. In so doing, you will as well join with me in saying that no, in no such instance have we found anything even vaguely reminescent of a supreme deity residing in such places.
Faugh! I hear the man in the back row call me out. How can we be asked to tolerate such filthy satirical word games. Sacrilege! But wait, don’t be so hasty. I really do have a point. Doesn’t it bother you, as people of substantial wit and intelligence, to continually put up with just that sort of word game from the mouths of the clergy? Of course it does, it bothers us all. Why can they not think clearly enough to accept the word of Scripture at its face value? I for one, could not dare to question the word of God Himself, assuming of course that there is such a Him to begin with. Let us give Him, or at least His word, the benefit of the doubt. When we are implored to look under stones for Jesus, I say (with considerable sincerity) let us look there!
Now, lest we arrive at a heated state of mind, let us break momentarily from this final test of Jesus’ own word, to consider the remarks of the great biologist J.B.S. Haldane who, when asked what the study of nature reveals about the nature of the Creator, responded, “an inordinate fondness for beetles.” Yes, beetles, those shiny, hard-crusted denizens of field and forest with whom we share our every waking moment of time. The lowly, insignificant, but remarkably diverse group of animals which the Lord God has seen fit to use as the most bountiful form of life on our planet.
Friend, we may now return to that spot in the garden with fresh interest, and grasp with anticipation the edge of the granite slab adorning the margin that borders the peonies. Yes, pull harder and lift the still rock from the firmament, and let the sun’s rays penetrate the resulting cavity. There, what do we see? A serene man, clothed in robes, with a noble look in his eye, and unkempt hair? Alas, no. But there, under a clod of clay, a dark shape scurries toward the peony at your side. “A carabid!” you exclaim. And another! Surely this is a cruel harbinger, a hoax on us all. You stoop to look again, perhaps for a golden cross, or the vestiges at least of a chalice, or even a shred of shroud. No, there will be no ultimate vision.
Your mind reels, as does mine, and the horns of the incipient dilemma close in on us. Was Jesus lying to us, or playing a mean trick? Or were His words merely the inventions of ordinary men, leaving us stranded in a godless, materialistic universe? Wraught with confusion, we step into the house, and proceed to the bathroom sink to cleanse our fingernails of the clay from the garden. Our loved ones nod to us, and one is heard to say, “Yes, do wash up, cleanliness is next to godliness.” But the phrase does not pass quickly across our consciousness. Cleanliness is next to godliness! What can this mean? Certainly one can not hope to deify oneself merely by washing! How presumptuous!
What, however, if this phrase has been changed over time, if in fact, its original meaning was something else altogether? We have been presented with some intriguing ideas the like of which we really have little experience with. Jesus assuring us that He will be found under stones. A test of this resulting in naught but a few carabids. The statement of Professor Haldane. Wait! Could the carabid have had more significance than we think? What a magnificent family of beetles, with so many genera: Carabus, Bembidion, Dyschirius, Chlaenius, and Mormolyce to name but a few. Again the mind stops short, as if caught on a barb of wire. Chlaenius! It is not cleanliness, but Chlaenius which is next to godliness! Oh happy day! Such vision, such resounding insight into the heart of reality! Such closeness to the Heart which so tenderly moves the world! Yes, we have solved our problem, and the solution will inspire us, surely, to further pursue our destined goals.
Deviants in Systematics
Robert S. Anderson
Department of Entomology
University of Alberta
T6G 2E3, CANADA
I am sure that at some time in the not too distant past all of us have run into individuals whose behaviour or structure differs significantly from that which we find desirable. No, I don’t mean those colleagues, some of whose looks or actions often remind us of some other type of viviparous quadruped from which we claim descent; I mean those all-too-numerous specimens which we all-too-frequently encounter in our work and through good conscience should deal with in some scientific or even pseudo-scientific manner. Yes, those aberrant monstrosoties which force us to reconsider our elegant and eloquent discourses into the non-descriptive realm of systematics and face the harsh reality and complexity of data. How one deals with such obstructions to the completion of papers and the undertaking of more field work is a potentially highly controversial topic. Those with a weak conscience may choose simply to dispose of the problematical beast in the proverbial circular file, or play hide and seek with it in deep shag carpeting. Certainly more rigourously scientific procedures are available. After all, we chose to pursue a scientific career as part of our own individual contribution to increasing knowledge of the human race and not just to prolong adolescence for a few more years. We cannot therefore simply avoid at least an attempt at dealing with what appears to be an increasingly common and consistent natural pattern. Such specimens, we all too well know, always: (1) are unique or else few in number; (2) are lacking parts or having parts obscured that are integral to their understanding; (3) are of the sex upon which our conclusions or classifications are not based; (4) turn up after publication of the research, or even, heaven forbid, in the final stages of manuscript preparation or after submission of the final draft; (5) are from areas which one thinks are biologically uninteresting and to which one really doesn’t want to travel.
I propose the name “stereotype” for these individuals because they always demonstrate a predictable and repeated pattern of undesirable attributes. Type depository (other than the circular file, etc.) for such material is important and should be selected on the basis of: (1) size of collection (in larger collections specimens are more likely to get lost or be forgotten); (2)the taxonomic expertise and interests of the curator(s) (specialist curators are more likely to loose a specimen of a group they are not interesting in or are not working on); (3) proximity to sources of natural disasters; (4) proximity to missile silos; (5) political instability of area. If deposited with conscious regard for the above guidelines, specimens are unlikely to be around long enough to pester some worker who may chose to re-examine the group at some time in the future.
Description of a new family of ground beetles (Coleoptera: Adephaga) with comments on metaphysical character paradoxes in systematics
John H. Acorn
Department of Entomology
University of Alberta
T6G 2E3, CANADA
Recently, while spending my idle hours in pleasant pursuit of the wondrous works of Nature, I chanced upon a specimen of beetle so singularly remarkable that I was immediately swept up in a sea of questions surrounding it. Surely, so perplexing an organism has never crossed my lab bench, and thus I was motivated, and not without due hesitation I must add, to describe it as the type of a new family of adephagan Coleoptera. The peculiarities of this animal are such that they are best left to the description thereof, which follows hereafter.
Family Howareutidae, fam. nov.
Derivation of name: Named for Howard McGinty, a fine and upstanding example of a man. Also “eu”, meaning true. Hence the true family of beetles named after Howard McGinty.
Type genus: Howareutus Acorn, gen. nov.
Diagnosis: Same as for the type genus, as the family is monotypic.
Discussion: The metaphysical implications of this species are so bizarre as to warrant its placement in a separate family. No self-respecting systematist could think otherwise.
Howareutus Acorn, gen. nov.
Type species: Howareutus aefternoonani Acorn, sp. nov.
Diagnosis: Same as for the type species, as the genus is monotypic.
Howareutus aefternoonani Acorn, sp. nov.
Derivation of name: The derivation of the generic name is similar to that of the family. The specific epithet is derived from the Anglo-Saxon “aefter”, meaning after, and Noonan, referring to Gary Noonan, that eminent researcher of “dingy carabids.” This species was described after Gary left the University of Alberta, hence, “after Noonan”.
Type material: A single male, herewith designated as holotype, is deposited in the collection of John R. Spence, Department of Entomology, University of Alberta, Edmonton. It was captured near Kinsella, Aiberta, on June 10, 1983.
Diagnosis: Superficially resembling an adult Harpalus ochropus Kirby (Figure 1), but with the second and third elytral striae of the left elytron fully and completely crossing in the basal third of their length, with concomitant total confusion of the elytral characters.
Figure 1. Howareutus aefternoonani Acorn, sp. nov. Holotype male.
The things which systematists rely upon to distinguish species, genera, and other natural groups, are the presence of shared derived characters. Whether these be referred to as synapomorphies, autapomorphies, or what have you, the truth remains that they are characters, and that the basic unit of systematic research is the character. Consider then, the problems inherent in utilizing the traditional elytral character of the presence or absence of a setiferous puncture in the third elytral interval, with respect to the type specimen of H. aefternoonani. On the right elytron, we would answer with a resounding yes! Of course there is one, and why shouldn’t there be?
But on the left elytron, the story is far from simple, and is enough to torture the inquisitive mind. Yes, there is a puncture, but what interval is it in? The second, you ask? Ah, you mean the interval lateral to the second stria, do you not? Then no, that interval is barren of punctures. Then the first interval, the one lateral to the first stria? Again, I must answer no – that interval as well is bare. The third interval – medial to the third stria is as well unpunctured. How can this be?!
Of course, the puncture exists, and a clever observer has shown me that it is in the interval medial to the second stria – the first interval. Bravo! But yet another colleague says no, that it is the interval lateral to the second stria – the third interval. And yet another claims it is in the interval between the second and third striae, the second interval.
The conclusion, dear reader, is obvious and disheartening. This beetle defies the normal workings of systematics, and possesses a character which is truly evasive and paradoxical in form.
There is, however, a common feeling that this specimen represents merely an abberant individual of the carabid species Harpalus ochropus. After all, abberant individuals may possess extra supraorbital hairs, or lack the usual ones, or have extra elytral punctures. These characters, however, are simply “individual autapomorphies”. Certainly an individual can be autapomorphic in lacking a common feature of its species, or possessing an extra hair or puncture.
However, and this is the pivotal question, can a character which defies recognition by all rational means be an autamorphy? I should think not. Plus, I hasten to remind you that the type specimen possesses this character on only one of its two elytra, and thus contains an internal systematic paradox.
In summary the Howareutidae comprise an example of an evolutionary phenomenon new to science, and akin to nothing we have ever seen before. They possess a character which behaves like a wave function in quantum mechanics, which only assumes a position when it is measured, and is otherwise present in a number of positions simultaneously, according to a probabilistic function. The implications of this are staggering, and bode ill for the future of traditional systematics.
Richard C. Fox
Department of Zoology
University of Alberta
T6G 2E3, CANADA
|The origin of mammals, |
In Mesozoic time,
ls lumined by grim fables,
Set in a cladist’s rhyme.For in the cladist’s view,
We are our father’s sires:
We have not changed within our tree –
For us, our classifiers.We’re only terminal branches,
On a noded dendrology,
A pattern of sticks in stasis,
Non-evolution-ary!But list’! – the clock just struck Triassic,
A beady eye now stares,
Searching a way to sister-group:
“Which way are characters shared? “One says it’s with therapsids,
That our alliance in future will be,
All chewing and chomping and breathing at once,
Hot – endothermically.Another says it’s birds we’re with,
“It’s Nature’s hierarchy, see!
Joined with transformed cladists,
In feathered synapomorphy.But alas – are we not yet mammals?
Can’t we make the grade?
Or must we still be protists,
Half-Nelsoned in our clade.
This regular feature of our journal will first appear in the next issue. (We hope.)
We solicit notices of recent publications of interest to the readers of Biologie Und Naturwissenschaft der Käfer. See next issue for examples.
Odds and Sods
Three Musings by D.R. Maddison
Why do question marks look the way they do? They don’t look at all like periods. Commas, however, are vaquely similar to question marks in that they are curved. Similar in another way are colons: they have two parts (as do exclamation marks!) Even closer to question marks are semicolons; but, though they have a dot and a curved part, they are much less interesting than question marks. Don’t you agree?
The English language is odd, in that often adjacent words possess different sets of vowels; occasionally there are exceptions to this, but they are rare.
One day I met a man who had recently solved a tragic dilemma. This is the story of his dilemma.
My friend was a perfectionist. This was a very good thing, for the most part, but it did have its difficulties. For example, he was rarely satisfied with the results of his efforts, as my friend was not infinitely capable, and thus he invariably made mistakes. These mistakes, however small they might be, preyed upon his mind, and rarely let him sleep. He came to the realization that being such a perfectionist was a bad thing. He decided that the solution to his problem was to choose an imperfection, seek that imperfection, and accept it. In doing so, it would free his mind of the worries of all his other silly mistakes, as perhaps he would be able to accept them too.
But what imperfection to choose? He thought and thought. Many days past, and still he had not thought of an imperfection that would suit his needs. And then it occurred to him! The perfect imperfection! With this thought in mind, he let his mind at ease, and strolled easily down the street, for his course was clear: he would be a perfectionist!
Some sentences give the illusion of being self-referential, but in fact are not. – W.P. Maddison
Carabid before it gets away! – J.A. Walper.
You can Colymbetes if you want to, but that’s Acilius thing I’ve ever heard. – J.A.Walper.
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Letters to the Editors
I have in hand my first issue of Biologie Und Naturwissenschaft der Käfer, and I am quite appalled by the lack of reader input in the issue. International journals of the caliber of B.U.N.K. would surely generate vast numbers of letters to the editors. However, in the issue in my hand (Volume 2, Number 1), there is only one letter. I consider it your duty to be more responsive to the readers of your journal, and publish more of the correspondence you receive.
Ed. note: It is our policy to publish appropriate letters in our “Letters to the Editors” section, and we eagerly request submission of letters from our readers. We are sorry to have so quickly disillusioned one of our readers, and we apologize for this lapse.