Description Of The Collection
The department's collections cover the phylum Arthropoda, except crustaceans and pycnogonids which are kept in the Academy's Department of Invertebrate Zoology and Geology. This collection is one of the five largest in North America (see Kim, 1989 [although the Academy's collection size is grossly understated in that report]) and of national and international importance. It includes representatives of all orders, nearly all families, and an estimated 250,000 species of insects, myriapods, and arachnids. Presently, it contains about 12,400,000 specimens (of which some 8,161,000 have been processed and accessioned, while the remainder awaits preparation).
The above figure for fully-prepared and accessioned specimens was established by an initial overall count of the accessioned collection in 1977 (in preparation of a grant proposal to NSF), which has been upgraded annually, based on accurate counts of yearly accessions. Unprocessed specimens were counted in late 1989, as part of the development of a database for these materials (see below), and all additions to that part of the collection since that time have been included in the figure presented.
About 80% of the prepared specimens (ca. 6.4 million) are pinned and stored in glass-topped drawers in the compact storage system; the remaining 20% are stored in shell vials in jars of alcohol (ca. 1.6 million specimens) or mounted on microscope slides (several tens of thousands of specimens) in slide boxes and housed in modified conventional insect drawer cases.
Within in glass-topped drawer, pinned specimens are kept in unit trays (which can be rearranged without handling individual specimens). Trays with hard bottoms (cork or wallboard) and low sides (about 33 mm high) were used for several decades, but our new trays have soft polyehtylene foam bottoms and higher sides (about 4.3 mm) to better protect specimens. We began gradual replacement of the old trays with the new ones about ten years ago, and about 35,000 old trays reamin to be replaced at this time.
Specimens identified to species level are placed in unit trays with no more than one species per tray. Present procedure includes the addition of a header label, with the species name (a binomen or trinomen) and the name's author, in the first tray for each species. A color dot, indicating the faunal region(s) of the specimens included, is affixed to the header label. The color code for faunal regions used at the Academy is the same as that used in entomological collections at the Museum of Comparative Zoology and the U.S. National Museum of Natural History. All newly identified material has been handled in this way for the last ten years; and the older, incomplete header labels are being replaced as parts of the collection are reorganized and when materials are returned from loan.
Taxonomic Diversity and Strengths
All major taxonomic groups are well represented in the collection, but several areas of particular strength merit further description.
1. Embiidina. Collection holdings (mainly the E.S. Ross collection) for this order are the largest and most diverse in the world, with about 1,000 species represnted (including at least 90% of described species, most represented by topotypic material and many by primary types, and hundreds of undescribed species). The collection includes about 300,000 specimens.
2. Thysanoptera. Principal holdings include the important D. Moulton collection, which contains about 25,000 slide mounted specimens, including hundreds of primary types, and another 10,000 specimens in alcohol.
3. Hemiptera/Homoptera. The main component of our holdings for this group is the E.P. Van Duzee collection, which alone includes 164,442 specimens. Representation is particularly strong for Pentatomidae (more than 23,000 specimens representing about 1,150 taxa) and Miridae (about 32,000 specimens representing more than 1,500 species). The I. La Rivers collection of Naucoridae is also an internationally important taxonomic resource.
4. Coleoptera. Holdings for beetles in general are very rich, representing about 35% of the entire collection. Particular strengths include: Carabidae (more than 250,000 specimens, especially the Kavanaugh and E.C. Van Dyke collections); Hydradephaga and Hydrophilidae (about 160,000 specimens, mainly from the H.B. Leech collection); Scarabaeidae (about 200,000 specimens, including the L.W. Saylor (ca. 40,000 specimens) and E.R. Leach collections); Staphylinidae (more than 150,000 specimens, including the important A. Fenyes collection; Cantharoidea, especially the J.W. Green and K.M. Fender collections; Nitidulidae, especially the L.R. Gillogly collection (more than 25,000 specimens); Coccinellidae (about 65,000 specimens, including the W.H. Nutting, Jr. collection); Melyridae (about 30,000 specimens, especially the F.E. Blaisdell collection); Tenebrionidae (more than 180,000 specimens, especially the F.E. Blaisdell collection); Cerambycidae (more than 120,000 specimens); Chrysomelidae (more than 140,000 specimens)p and Curculionoidea (more than 125,000 specimens, including extensive material from J.L. Gressitt). Major additons to the general coleopteran holdings in past years include significant parts of or the entire collections of O. Bryant (180,000 specimens), J.L. Gressitt (125,000 specimens), F.C. Hadden (200,000 specimens, R. Hopping (97,000 specimens), A. Koebele (100,000 specimens[beetle portion only]), and E.C. Van Dyke (about 280,000 specimens).
5. Hymenoptera. Representation of this order is particularly strong for the Aculeata, especially the Sphecidae. Identified holdings for that family include representatives of at least 2,600 described species (roughly 30% of the known fauna worldwide) and hundreds of additional, undescribed species.
6. Diptera. Flies represent the second largest component of the collection. Most significant holdings include:
Tabanidae (about 34,000 specimens, including more than 17,000 specimens from the C.B. Philip collection, representing more than 1,7000 species-group taxa [a publication is available on general collection holdings of Tabanidae]); Asilidae (more than 42,000 specimens, including nearly 27,500 specimens from the J. Wilcox collection, representing more than 950 Nearctic species alone); Platypezidae (more than 12,000 specimens, mainly from the E.L. Kessel collection); and Apioceridae (about 3,500 specimens).
7. Trichoptera. significant caddisfly holdings include the collection of D.G. Denning (about 28,000 specimens, mainly from western North America).
8. Lepidoptera. Important holdings for this order include the Hesperiidae (especially the C.D. MacNeill collection) and Pieridae (including the W. Hovanitz collection for this family). Major personal collections deposited in the departmental collection include those of T.W. Davies (especially 25,000 specimens from Papua New Guinea), E. Guedet (almost 10,000 geometrids), H.G. Real (more than 50,000 specimens, mainly ithomiids and heliconiids), and J.W. Tilden (about 30,000 specimens, mainly of western North American butterflies).
9. Scorpiones. Scorpion holdings are extensive, particularly strong for western North America, but with a significant worldwide component. Major personal collections acquired and incorporated into the departmental collection are those of S.C. Williams (about 35,000 specimens) and H.L. Stahnke (about 22,000 specimens).
10. Araneae. The collection of spiders is one of the most rapidly growing parts of the collection, again, worldwide in scope, with important materials from South America, Africa, and Australia. a recent major addition to the collection was materail from the W.B. Peck collection (about 60,000 specimens).
11. Insect fossils. The collection serves as the depository for fossil insect material collected at the mid-Tertiary Stewart Valley site, near Hawthorne, Nevada, by Dr. Harvey I. Scudder, a Research Associated of the department, and his colleagues. Several hundred specimens, beautifully preserved in fine-grained ("lithographic") limestone, have already been received.
Geographical Coverage and Strengths
The collection is worldwide in scope and use, with all major faunal regions represnted by significant holdings. Areas particularly well represented include: western North America (with special strength in California and Baja California), western South America (with special strength in the Galapagos Islands), the Indo-Australian archipelago (especially the Philippines), Australia, and tropical Africa.
Primary type specimens are housed in a separate, specially designed room. Included in this collection are primary types for about 16,000 species group names [syntypes are catalogued and stored in this room also, but they are not included in this number]. Only holotypes, lectotypes, and neotypes now receive unique "type numbers" and are cataloged, although such numbers were sometimes assigned to allotypes in the past.
Each type specimen is stored in its own unit tray. Trays for most type specimens are the smallest size used in our system-- quarter units; and each drawer can accommodate 100 such trays. Trays containing some of the older types are hard-bottomed. The smallness of these quarter unit trays permits relatively efficient use of drawer space, but handling of individual specimens can be difficult.
At present, the departmental collection also serves as a depository of primary types for 13 other institutions in the western United States. Types are received from these other institutions as either outright donations or on a permanent or indefinite loan basis, depending on the institution and its regulations. By formal arrangement with institutions and authorities in several foreign countries (e.g., Peru and Papua New Guinea), a few primary type specimens are also deposited in the department in trust, pending the establishment of permanent, long-term storage and service capabilities for type material in those countries.
Data for all primary types have now been entered into the database for collection holdings. To date, catalogs of the Academy's type holdings have been published for Orthoptera (Rentz, 1965), Thysanoptera (Arnaud and Lee, 1973), and Diptera (Arnaud, 1979); and additional publications are intended for the future, pending completion of the database development initiatives currently in progress.
To date, we have received very few specimens (less than 100) that represent voucher material for environmental, behavioral, physiological, or other studies. However, our collection inventory database has been structured so as to accommodate and track voucher material when it is received. Notation in the database and proper labeling of voucher specimens permites their integration into the main collection, eliminating the need for maintenance of as many separate collections as vouchered projects. Recommendations resulting from the NSF-sponsered conference on voucher specimen management (Lee et al., 1982), have not yet achieved widespread acceptance and implementation by those portions of the scientific community that should be submitting voucher specimens for long-term conservation. Although the volume of incoming new material and our backlog of unprepared specimens have prevented us from taking a pro-active role in seeking out voucher material for deposit, we are fully prepared to accept and handle such material under the conditions outlined in the conference report (Lee et al., 1982).
Backlog. An estimated 4.4 million specimens (both dried and preserved in alcohol) are awaiting preparation. Our recent detailed inventory of the backlog showed that the actual size of the backlog was almost twice that previously estimated. Material included represents all faunal regions, with Nearctic material accounting for about 51% of the total and Neotropical material about 16%. Although some acquisitions represent a single taxonomic group (i.e., Diptera, Coleoptera, or Lepidoptera) more than 71% of the material is in taxonomic mixed lots. Dried specimens are layered on cellucotton and stored in specially-designed cardboard storage boxes, arranged geographically and chronologically in cabinets. These materials are all kept in the preparation room. Locality labels have already been printed for part of the backlog material. Unprepared material stored in alcohol receives regular, appropriate attention (e.g. topping off and/or replacement of fluid as needed) to prevent/minimize deterioration of materials to be processed.
In recent years higher priority has been given to recently collected material in an attempt to limit the amount of material added to the backlog. In addition, refinement of our acquisition policy and priorities and closer adherence to collection development guidelines have resulted in greater selectivity in acceptance of incoming materials, thereby further limiting backlog growth. Development of the computer database for backlog material has improved our ability to organized, prioritize, and monitor this material.
Historical and Current Sources of Collection Growth
The collection has developed and continues to grow through the acquisition of materials from diverse sources. Historically, field studies and expeditions by staff researchers have served as the primary source of materials for growth of the collection. About 50% of the entire collection of accessioned and unaccessioned specimens has been acquired through collections by staff. Especially during the past decade, donations from external sources have become a major component of collection growth. The acquisition of so-called "orphaned collections" has also contributed to collection growth. Fewer, yet significant, materials are also acquired through exchanges, direct purchases, and the financing of fieldwork by non-staff collectors and researchers, who obtain material for the collection in exchange for partial field support. During the period 1989-1993, more than 564,000 new specimens were accessioned into the collection. Of these, about 50% were additions by staff, the other 50% from other sources. Additional comments about different sources seem appropriate.
1. Staff field studies and expeditions. Some particularly significant contributions to collection growth and development were made through the following expeditions involving staff members and research associates: Galapagos Islands (Williams, 1905), Gulf of California (Van Duzee and Chamberlin, 1921), Baja California (Michelbacher and Ross, 1938; Ross, 1939, 1941), mainland Mexico (Ross, 1946, 1948, 1960), South America (Ross, 1950-51), Africa (Ross, many expeditions, 1959-72), Indo-Australian Region (Ross, 1961-62, 1977), Central and South America (Ross, 1975, 1982, 1987); Peru (Hunter, 1983; Kavanaugh, 1984; Pulawski, 1984), Mediterranean countries (Ross, 1981, 1983, 1984), Papua New Guinea (Pulawski & Penny, 1987; Pulawski, 1988; Kavanaugh & Penny, 1989), northern Oriental Region (Ross, 1989; Pulawski, 1989), Namibia (Pulawski, 1990), Gulf Coast of the southern United States (Arnaud, 1990); Costa Rica (Penny, 1990, 1991); Hawaiian Islands (Kavanaugh, 1991); Australia (Griswold, 1992); Egypt (Pulawski, 1993); Mauritania (Pulawski, 1994), Madagascar (Griswold, 1994; Pulawski, 1994). This source of additions to the collection will remain an important component of its growth in the future. This is desirable because additions from staff are most easily controlled and directed. It is important to note that staff collecting efforts should not be equated with research efforts alone. Of the nearly 220,000 specimens added to the collection through staff collecting efforts during the period 1985-89 (37% of total accessions for that period), only 27,600 specimens (12.6%, i.e. less than 5% of total accessions) were for staff research purposes. The overwhelming majority of materials collected by staff and prepared for the collection has been for use by the general scientific community.
2. Donations from individuals. The Department has received several thousand donations from over a thousand sources during its history. This source of collection growth will certainly continue in the future and may increase dramatically as the physical products of "biodiversity" initiatives and faunal inventories (i.e. specimens) accumulate and require long-term maintenance and storage. As desirable and important as these additions to collections may be, they present major problems for collection management due to their general unpredictability with respect to what is donated and when. For example, the owners of several large and important private collections, which together contain between 500,000 and 1 million specimens, have indicated their firm intent to donate these resources to the Academy. Several are parts of bequests that could arrive at any time during the next 30 years, each with significant and immediate impact on all other collection-related activities at that time. Control of collection growth from this source, even in keeping with a clearly defined acquisition policy, and the allocation of resources to processing these incoming materials is our most difficult collection management challenge.
3. Donations from other institutions. Materials from other institutional collections are received occasionally. For example, researchers and collections at the University of California, Berkeley, and the California Deparment of Food and Agriculture, in Sacramento, frequently deposit specimens outside of their taxonomic and/or geographical areas of interest in the Academy's collections, either as donations or on an open exchange basis. Two important donations of this kind from U.C. Berkeley were the E.I. Schlinger collection of about 200,000 Chilean specimens (1979) and the R.L. Usinger collection of non-Nearctic Heteroptera (1983). Such deposit arrangements place the material where it can be most effectively maintained and used.
4. Exchanges. These transactions are labor-intensive and as a result, have not been given high priority among the department's collection management and development activities. However, the identification of significant taxonomic and/or geographic gaps in the collection and the evaluation of potential exchange opportunities will become increasingly easier as the database for collection holdings nears completion. With this important management tool in hand, exchanges will be given a higher priority in the future.
5. Purchases and financed expeditions. Direct purchases are made as opportunities are presented, normally on a small scale only. Expenditures seldom exceed a few hundred dollars a year (examples: $265 for 1,060 unprepared Carabidae from Poland, 1983; $100 for fully spread, labeled, and individually determined Microlepidoptera from Europe, 1984). The department and institution have no funds intended solely for such use. Acquisition of new materials through the financing of collecting efforts by non-staff researchers is also a minor component of collection growth. Again, annual expenditures for this purpose normally total just a few hundred dollars. However, the department welcomes opportunities to work cooperatively with other individuals and institutions to support fieldwork in return for material collected in keeping with its research interests and collection development objectives.
6. Orphaned collections. The department has accepted several orphaned collections over the past few decades, beginning with part of Stanford University's collection of Coleoptera in 1959-60, when maintenance of collections was discontinued there. The next major acquisition of this type, in 1981-82, was the Pomona College collection. It included type specimens for species described by C.F. Baker, in addition to other important research materials from western North America, especially northern Mexico. It was being used as a teaching collection for general biology and other classes. An exchange was arranged with Pomona, wherein we created and transferred a suitable teaching collection to them in exchange for the research collection. Most recently, the bulk of the insect collection at Pacific Union College (Angwin, California) was transferred to the Academy, following a change in teaching and research emphasis in that institution. Similarly, the worldwide collection of medically important insects (mainly mosquitoes and other blood-sucking insects) developed and maintained at the Alameda Naval Air Station, California, was transferred to the Academy after budget cuts eliminated curatorial support there.
Institutional collections are not the only ones that can be considered "orphaned". Although most collectors and/or developers of personal collections make arrangements for the ultimate disposition of their collections through sale or donation, some do not. Two such collections were acquired recently, suddenly, and without warning. The B.P. Bliven collection, which includes type material for many hemipteran taxa that Bliven described in his own publication (and that had never been seen by other workers) was offered to the Academy by his family after his death. Similary, the important collection of the late E.R. Tinkham (mostly orthopterans) was rescued from deteriorating conditions and brought to the Academy for reconditioning and deposit. Both of these collections have required extensive commitment of resources and effort for their ruscue and reconditioning.
This source of collection growth presents special problems, chiefly because (1) it is almost always unanticipated and (2) it usually involves a rescue and/or reconditioning effort that is more expensive in staff time and effort than any other type of acquisition. Nonetheless, these collections, though often neglected, may contain extremely important research resources (e.g. type specimens) that need to be preserved. The Academy is one of those institutions best suited to serve as an ultimate depository for such materials in spite of the cost and effort.
Growth Rate of the Collection.
Any valid measure of the growth rate of the collection must include both increases in accessioned materials and additions to the backlog of unprocessed materials, because both affect collection management activities and priorities.
Since 1970-71, net growth in the backlog of unprocessed materail (i.e. specimens added to backlog minus specimens prepared from backlog and accessioned) was about 1.6 million specimens, up 57%, from 2.8 to 4.4 million. The average annual net increase over this period has been about 80,000 specimens, or 2.5%. An exceptionally high rate of acquisiton of new materials, including four important orphaned collections and several large personal collections, which had been willed to the Academy (but were not expected until well into the future), occurred during the past five years. Most of these materials have had to be added to backlog, pending completion of work on other projects already in progress. Since 1985-86, additions to backlog have averaged about 124,000 specimens per year, 44,000 above the 20-year average.
In summary, the combined departmental collection (both accessioned and unprocessed materials) has grown from a total of about 8.4 to 12.6 million specimens since 1970-71, a 50% increase, with an average annual increase of more than 208,000 specimens, or about 2%. Nearly 62% of the growth has been in the accessioned part of the collection, the remaining 38% in our backlog.
Last Update: 6 April 2000