Dipterist’s Weekend at the NHM 2

Part of the NHM entomology collection

Part of the NHM entomology collection

This weekend was the annual Dipterist’s Forum AGM and talks & workshops – held at the Natural History Museum (NHM) in London. I went along for both days and it was pretty full-on & tiring but excellent fun. 🙂

Saturday was mainly devoted to the AGM and lots of Diptera-related talks in one of the new Darwin Centre lecture theatres. I was most interested to hear Chris Thompson (of the Smithsonian, Washington DC) but there were equally interesting talks on syrphids, craneflies and reports from a few of the national recording schemes. Pemberley books and D.J. Henshaws were also there for anyone with some money burning a hole in their pockets.

On Sunday we had a chance to see the new British synoptic collection and use the other superb facilities on offer in the museum. I brought in a few neotropical specimens (pantophthalmids & tachinids) to compare with material in the World Collection so I headed upstairs. Erica, Kim and Hannah had given up their weekend to look after us and soon had us all kitted out with microscopes, lights and plenty of specimens. The collection is huge and it takes a real expert to navigate their way through it. The pantophthalmid collection numbered 3 drawers but the tachinids spanned about 300 drawers!!

I started by verifying my Pantophthalmus vittatus against the holotype – I had it right but Val’s 1976 key was wrong in that figure #78 doesn’t show the face correctly – P.vittatus has a much rounder ‘nose’, similar to P.bellardii. I compared my specimen to the holotype of P.bellardii too, just in case she had transposed the figures but she hadn’t – #78 is just incorrect.

Next I tried my Cryptocladocera but the NHM didn’t have any of that genus on the database so I will have to try another avenue. It should be a very easy genus to identify if I could see the 4 known species or at the very least their descriptions.

Cordyligaster fuscipennis

Cordyligaster fuscipennis

Lastly I decided to just look through the World Collection and see if I could find 2 interestingly-shaped tachinids – see here and here. They looked distinctive enough to stand out and the intra-alars suggested that they would be Phasiinae  or Dexiinae so I started there. It took me about 40 drawers but I hit the jackpot when I pulled the drawer for Cordyligaster. It didn’t take long to work out which species I had – or at least the closest approximations. I was very impressed … next time I will bring along some more taxing specimens! 🙂

I also double-checked my specimen of Scotiptera venatoria (a lovely dark dexiine – large with silvery spots and dark wings) against the specimens in the collection. They matched perfectly and even the locations of the NHM’s specimens were close to French Guiana.

Many thanks to everyone at the NHM for letting us take over and for giving up their weekend to look after us – especially Erica, Kim & Hannah.

2 thoughts on “Dipterist’s Weekend at the NHM

  1. Reply Brian Brown Dec 7,2009 3:36 am


    Interesting blog. Do you have any people photos?

    Just so you know, F. C. do Val is a woman.


  2. Reply ChrisR Dec 7,2009 12:06 pm

    Hi Brian

    Glad you like the blog. I’d actually like to see more use of ‘social networking’ (Facebook, Twitter & blogs etc.) by dipterists around the world – there aren’t many of us so we need to work together more. In my experience it often just takes an expert to glance at a photo and make a brief comment and it can start me off on new direction and solve a really knotty problem. 🙂

    Unfortunately I omitted to take photos of people – I was too preoccupied by the flies on the day. But I know Erica McAlister took some photos of DF members working on their material on her own blog here. They are planning another open-day in February so I will take more photos of people then, not just interesting flies 😉

    I had wondered whether Val is a woman – I will correct my article 😀

    Chris R.

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