27 October 2008

An honor for a friend

As some of you know, or have gathered, I'm an ornithologist by profession; Stylurus is an engineer. Our interests in other taxa are varied, but our passion for Odonata was supported and stoked by one person, Mark O'Brien, collections manager of insects at the University of Michigan Museum of Zoology and head honcho of the Michigan Odonata Survey. Yes, it's all his fault.

He recently received one of the coolest honors that anybody can get, and one that is especially super-cool for those of us who are really into natural history and taxonomy: he had a species named after him. It is a tropical damselfly, Homeoura obrieni, described by Natalia von Ellenreider. Maybe Mark would have preferred a wasp, since that was his taxa of academic expertise, but it seems like he's thoroughly adopted odes, and I know he's pleased.

I waded through the paper to learn a little more about Mark's namesake. It describes the history of the genus Homeoura as "complex and tortuous," with the species currently ascribed to it as belonging to a number of other genera in the pond damsel family Coenagrionidae at one point or another over the last 90 years. von Ellenreider works it all out, putting two former Homeoura species in another genus, keeping three species, transferring a forktail (Ischnura) to Homeoura, and describing H. obrieni. The 26-page paper includes lots of illustrations and keys.

The genus Homeoura consists of small, mostly black damsels with pale blue or yellow areas. H. obrieni is not newly discovered in the just-collected sense, but is described from older museum specimens. Specimens of H. obrieni were previously misidentified as Argentagrion lindneri, A. nepos, and H. nepos. This species is found in lentic habitats in Brazil, Colombia, and Venezuela. The photo above doesn't reveal much. I found a few photos of H. nepos (which may or may not be that species, or H. obrieni), and can tell you that these do indeed look like little forktails. Much like our familiar Eastern Forktail, but with Citrine Forktail-like red stigma. Here's a dull, dried out pair of H. nepos specimens from Dennis Paulson, a male from Tom Davis from Brazil, and a female from Arvind Bhateja.

von Ellenreider states the etymology: "Named after my colleague Mark O'Brien, in gratitude for his manifold assistance to students interested in the rich dragonfly collection at the UMMZ."

Indeed, Mark is deserving of recognition for fostering Odonata love far and wide. Not only did he encourage the Urban Dragon Hunters into being, but he and his wife have also become two of our most fun and valued friends. Congrats, Mark, on this honor, and thanks for all your support and friendship!

von Ellenreider, N. 2008. Revalidation of Argentagrion and redefinition of Homeoura, with the description of H. obrieni n. sp. (Odonata: Coenagrionidae). Rev. Soc. Entomol. Argent.67: 81-106.

19 October 2008

End of the 2008 flight season in Michigan

It's disappointing to reach the end of the 2008 flight season for dragonflies in Michigan. I was hoping to get out and look for some late odes this weekend, but head colds and other activities took priority.

There still are a couple of common species that can be found over the next couple of weeks, but I don't expect to find anything new or startling.

Last Sunday (October 12), Nannothemis and I did find new late dates for the state. We visited the Humbug Marsh unit of the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge again.
1. several Tule Bluets (Enallagma carunculatum)
2. one male Familiar Bluet (Enallagma civile), we have sighted one as late as October 15th in a previous year
3. one female Ruby Meadowhawk (Sympetrum rubicundulum)

Other late fliers were a couple of darners (Aeshna sp.), but I couldn't make an ID to species and one male Black Saddlebags (Tramea lacerata).

Following is what may be my last Michigan dragonfly photo of the year from the field...
a female Common Green Darner (Anax junius)

... of course, this may be the first Michigan species to photograph in 2009.