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.


Anne said...

Came across your blog and thought you would like to go to this womans blog in Ohio who seems to have the same interest as you.

Patrick B. said...

Too cool!

John B. said...

Congratulations to Mark!

JAC said...

I see from the first comment that Urban Dragon Hunters is a trendsetter!