Teachers’ Lounge

KQED QUEST Video: Chasing Beetles, Finding Darwin

by megan on Feb. 13th, 2009 No Comments

KQED QUEST recently televised a half-hour episode highlighting our own Senior Curator of Entomology, David Kavanaugh. Before presenting the video to your class, educators may be interested in reading the Producer’s Notes or downloading a Program Guide that includes further media-rich resources covering evolution.

How might Dave’s research on the Nebria genus in the Trinity Alps provide evidence for the adverse effects of climate change on beetle distribution? Learn more from an article in our Winter 2008 Member Publication, which complements this piece quite nicely.

Stream the episode below, or view the original video here.

Comprehension Questions:

1. In what type of environment does Dave often conduct his research on beetles of the genus Nebria?

2. When he discovered a new species in 1980 in the Trinity Alps, Dave named the beetle Nebria turmaduodecima. What provided the inspiration for this Latin name?

3. What did Dave notice about the two beetle species living in the Cascade Mountains of Washington? How did he apply this to his research in California?

4. What prediction did Darwin make that involved the co-evolution of two species?

5. Briefly state the main argument of natural selection, an idea proposed by Darwin in the mid-1800s. How does this idea conflict with some public perceptions of the origin and diversity of life, both then and now?

6. Who is Sean Schoville, where does he study, and how did he contribute to Dave’s research in the Trinity Alps?

7. What is the easiest way to determine if a insect specimen qualifies as a distinct species?

8. Why are islands often considered laboratories for studying evolution? How does this concept relate to the habitats supporting the beetles in question?

9. What analogy did Darwin provide his readers to illustrate how nature might selects for traits that influences an organism’s survival?

10. What aspect of natural selection was mysterious to Darwin? How can scientists today use our improved understanding of the process to demonstrate how species change over time?

Nebria riversi TYPE01619Nebria coloradensis TYPE05298Nebria lituyae TYPE13460

Did you know that you can view specimens in our Entomology collection via an online collections database?
I recommend the Types Collection, which features holotypes of over 50 Nebria beetle species. A holotype is a specimen used as the basis of the original published description of a taxonomic group, often serving as a representative of a newly discovered species.

A simple exercise: Interpreting labels in an insect collection
1. Surf to the Entomology Types Collection Database.
2. Conduct a search by typing “Nebria” in the Genus field and clicking “Get Types”.
3. Choose any beetle species whose record contains an image.
4. Search for key information about the specimen by reading those tiny pinned labels.

Some labels show data from the collection event. Those with the abbreviation “det” contain the identification information as determined by a researcher back at the museum. Because taxonomic systems change as new research is conducted, you’ll notice that some beetles were named decades after originally collected.

Type number:

As determined by:

Click on one of the beautiful beetles above to practice!

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