Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Fab 350,000

The best present is sometimes the one you didn't even know you wanted. For example, this past Christmas, my sister gave me a book I had never heard of called An Inordinate Fondness for Beetles. It's a fairly large book, of the size sometimes called "coffee table" with pictures of the most outlandish beetles you could imagine, in all sizes and stunning colors, and plenty of writing to boot. Here's a bit of trivia:
  • "Modern taxonomic works generally cite the number of beetle species described since the middle of the eighteenth century as between 290,000 and 350,000. Regardless of the number you choose to accept, bettles are undeniably the largest order of animals in the world." (p. 20)
  • The largest beetle family "is the the curuculionids, comprising more than 50,000 named species." (p.22) In other words, the world is full of weevils.
  • The Greek philosopher Aristotle is responsible for the name still used to refer to the order of beetles: "Aristotle described beetles as insects that have wing cases and thus named them Coleoptera (from the Greek koleon, "sheath", and pteron, "wing"). (p. 12)

Quotations from An Inordinate Fondness for Beetles by Arthur V. Evans and Charles L. Bellamy

The pictures are my own, taken last July in Cambria, CA. I am not sure about the plant, but the beetle is a Western Cucumber Beetle, Diabrotica undecimpunctata undecimpunctata (That's an ocean in the background. Not just any ocean--the Specific Ocean.)

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