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Biodiversity Blog

 
Meet Stengl-Wyer Scholar: Ummat Somjee

Meet Stengl-Wyer Scholar: Ummat Somjee

Ummat Somjee is one of our 2021 Stengl-Wyer Scholars and is researching the evolution of exaggerated sexually-selected traits in animals. His research aims to understand how the energetic costs underlying these exaggerated traits may shape their evolution. As part of the Stengl Wyer Endowment, the Stengl Wyer Postdoctoral Scholars Program prov...
UT Spring 2022 Bee Competition

UT Spring 2022 Bee Competition

 USDA Photo by Jack Dykinga The winner of this year's contest is Paige Durant! Click here to learn how she found this season's bees. Bring us the first Travis County mason bee of 2022, you’ll win a native Osmia bee house! Rationale: One measure of our changing climate is the shifting dates of emergence of our earliest spring flowers and in...

All things creepy: parasitism, pt 5, crypt keepers

Euderus setThe crypt keeper (Photo from paper by Scott P. Egan, Kelly L. Weinersmith, Sean Liu, Ryan D. Ridenbaugh, Y. Miles Zhang, Andrew A. Forbes. Creative Commons.) Talk about a nightmare of a roommate. Imagine yourself to be a larvae of gall wasp, the species Bassettia pallida more specifically. You are inside the gall of an oak tree, a gall that...
All things creepy: parasitism pt 1, mermithids and earwigs

All things creepy: parasitism pt 1, mermithids and earwigs

This is a mermithid found in an Asian Hornet. (Wikicommons photo: PeerJ, 2015) In the spirit of Halloween and all that is spooky, we are doing a series of short blogs on parasitism! In biology, parasitism at its most basic level is where one species benefits at the expense of its host. The parasite does not always kill its host, but when it does...
Featured Species: Clown Beetle

Featured Species: Clown Beetle

  Clown beetles, also known as Hister beetles, are a family (Histeridae) that contains over 3900 species. Their unusually glossy-but-sculptured surfaces and spiny appendages make them sought after by some collectors. They are found throughout the world, but not terribly common in Central Texas, which is why when Dr. Alex Wild, Curator ...
It got really cold. What does that mean for Texas biodiversity?

It got really cold. What does that mean for Texas biodiversity?

The February winter storm “Uri” saw temperatures drop into the single digits and stay below freezing for days. The last time Austin had single digit temperatures was in 1989, the year the Berlin wall fell, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade came out, and Taylor Swift was born. So, yeah. It’s been a while. Uri not only caused havoc for Texans and ou...
UT Spring Bee Competition

UT Spring Bee Competition

 USDA Photo by Jack Dykinga We have a winner! Katie Elston is the winner of the UT Spring Bee competition. This competition was for submitting the first Travis County mason bee of 2021 to win a copy of the book “The Bees In Your Backyard”! Rationale: One measure of our changing climate is the shifting dates of emergence of our earliest spri...
Kinsey's Wasps

Kinsey's Wasps

  A 1953 issue of TIME magazine had this to say about biologist and sexologist Dr. Alfred Kinsey: “Kinsey...has done for sex what Columbus did for geography.” Kinsey’s influential work on human sexuality happened at a time in the US when openly discussing, much less researching, what went on in the bedroom was quite shocking. Nonetheless, h...

History of UT Entomology, Part 4: Screwworms

640px Screwworm Cochliomyia hominivorax Key Deer National Refuge Big Pine Key Florida 24909739517 Photo: Judy Gallagher (lCreative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license) Few people want to be a screwworm fly (Cochliomyia hominivorax) for Halloween, but maybe this should be a valid costume choice as what they do is pretty horrifying. In the early to mid-20th century, this obligate parasite, often called just “screwworm” for ...
History of UT Entomology, Part 1: It Begins with Ants

History of UT Entomology, Part 1: It Begins with Ants

 From Ants: Their Structure, Development, and Behavior (1910) When UT opened its doors in 1883, biology was not part of the curriculum, despite that faculty at the time pushed for representation of botany and physiology. “The new State University organized in 1883 had more ambitions than resources,” wrote Geneticist and UT professor Clarenc...
UT’s Non-Digital Biodiversity Specimens Join the Global Digital Revolution

UT’s Non-Digital Biodiversity Specimens Join the Global Digital Revolution

The prestigious journal BioScience just released "Natural History Collections: Advancing the Frontiers of Science," a compilation of recent natural history collection-related papers that sheds light on the importance of digitizing and publishing collections data, and the substantial obstacles confronting collections staff working on that. This come...

The Challenge of 1%

dungbettle web Dung beetle (Photo: Alex Wild) Natural History collections hold material going back centuries, but the digital revolution means their holdings are now open to everyone, pending the process of digitization. Properly digitizing specimens consumes enormous resources, particularly the one we all have so little of: time. But the Entomology Coll...

BACK YARD BIODIVERSITY: Fireflies

FF1   Photo: Alex Wild Austin sits at the far southwestern corner of the range of the Eastern Firefly (Photinus pyralis), the species that gives eastern landscapes the characteristic dusk light show in early summer. This insect is common in neighborhoods around Austin, with large flights in April, May, and June and a smaller emergence w...

Austin’s Other Orange Butterfly: the Gulf Fritillary

adult1by Dr. Alex Wild (Curator of Entomology, Biodiversity Collections) and Nicole Elmer (Biodiversity Center)    Adult Gulf Fritillary (Photo: Alex Wild) Austin is a butterfly town. About 150 kinds are known to occur in our area, a mix of temperate and tropical, desert and deciduous forest species. Although many people know the famous...

Austin Spring Insects: Crane Flies

Picture1   A female Tipula crane fly in an Austin garden Spring continues to roll through Austin, paying no heed to our human worries of viruses and lockdowns. Rains fall, trees leaf out, bluebonnets speckle the roadsides, and crane flies flutter clumsily across our lawns. Crane flies? Few insects are as strongly evocative of the Texan sprin...

New wasp species named after UT Entomologist

alexwildiGlyptapanteles alexwildi is one of 136 new tropical wasp species that have been recently discovered. This species is named after Entomologist Alex Wild, curator of Entomology in the Biodiversity Center. Glyptapanteles is a genus of small, often inconspicuous parasitoid wasps containing hundreds of species found worldwide. The genus is&nbs...

Creatures of Halloween: Scorpionfly (Panorpa nuptialis)

Panorpa nuptialis P1330899a   By xpda - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=64833118 Donning the colors of Halloween, this is the Scorpionfly (Panorpa nuptialis). It’s a common insect in Texas in wooded areas and ravines with dense vegetation. They are up to an inch long. Their wings are orange with defined angulate black ba...

Insects and Art

IMG 0395 red  Pencils in hand, erasers in reach, students huddle over cases of butterflies and beetles. The room is quiet, save for the “scratch scratch” of the pencil lead, the occasional rub of an eraser on paper. This is a scene from “Core II: Drawing,” a class in the First-Year Core Program at the Department of Art and Art History. On September 12t...

A Rodeo of Insects

Rodeo 1By Jen Schlauch, Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior Senior    Freshman Research Initiative students A large steel barn lay hidden from the February cold, framed in a banner of painted bluebonnets and the words, “Texas Wildlife Expo.” Within, javelinas, porcupines, and longhorn cattle shuffled in front of curious children and their ...

Explore UT 2019

IMG 7412     Photos: Alex Wild   Explore UT is an annual event that encourages students to become excited about higher education and the research opportunities at The University of Texas. And what better way to elicit curiosity than with rows of animal skulls and live snakes, spiders, and cockroaches? The UT Entomology Colle...