Aaron Schusteff Curador

Unido: 16.ene.2018 Última actividad: 14.jun.2024 iNaturalist

I'm an avid naturalist with a passionate interest in the California flora, which I've been studying since around 2001. My botanical posts (photos & commentary) can be accessed via the CalPhotos link below:


Through my botanical field activities I gradually became more & more fascinated by insects...and began posting on BugGuide, where I've been a contributing editor for a number of years:


There are a few entomo-groups I've become especially interested in over the years...

1) In Dec. 2013 I became fascinated with the genus Physocephala...and more generally the subfamily Conopinae of the "thick-headed fly" family Conopidae. I began accumulating literature on the group, working to ID Physocephala posts on the BugGuide website, visiting museum collections...and generally studying the group intensively :-). Eventually I became an editor at BugGuide and worked on building up the "info pages" and other resources in order to help people identify members of subfamily Conopinae: usually attempting to explain identifications & diagnostic characters, clarify or illustrate obscure terms, provide links to the literature, and point out interesting natural history & taxonomy tid-bits. When I began, only a few Physocephala posts had been placed to species on BugGuide (and virtually no Physoconops were). At the current time, the vast majority of BugGuide Conopinae posts are now placed to species...except for a particularly-vexing cluster of elements from the Florida area (including southern Georgia). These elements involve groupings of variable and overlapping diagnostic characters that span a confusing cluster of species as currently circumscribed: from Physcoconops weemsi and P. brachyrhynchus at one end...to P. floridanus and P. excisus/P. townsendi at the other end (the last considered a southwestern U.S. species!). Coherently placing members of this "vexing Florida cohort" still remains problematic (at least for me...and I think often for others too, knowingly or not ;-). Assembling a robust, online-accessible, sampling of rigorously curated reference photos for P. floridanus and P. weemsi (e.g. with detailed dorsal, profile & frontal images of live or pinned specimens, especially holo-, para-, topo- and other "types") could go a long ways towards resolving the difficulties of this "ID knot", and to publicly disseminating better understanding among conopinae-philes ;-)

2) Through my interest in Conopinae, I (accidentally) happened upon the tribe Cerioidini (of subfamily Eristalinae, family Syrphidae). I've become quite enamored with this fascinating group (for which iNat co-founder Ken-ichi Ueda has playfully suggested the common name "unicorn flies"...due to their frequent possession of a remarkably long & distinctive "frontal prominence" or "antennifer"). Of late I've put more effort into studying and identifying members of this group than any other. [A common thread of items 1) and 2) here is that I appear to love "wasp-mimics"! And cerioidines have the admirable advantage of making their relatively-benign larval-living by feeding on bacteria in sap...in contrast to conopines, with their rather gruesome larval practice of living as parasitoids of lovable hymenoptera like bumble-bees. Another favorite group of wasp-mimicking dipterans for me is Mydidae...as illustrated by my iNat avatar.]

3) I've also worked extensively on the Timema pages at BugGuide. This is a fascinating genus, and the subject of much current research...much of it with an emphasis on molecular methods (e.g. in genetic & ecological aspects of speciation, the interplay of sexual and asexual/parthenogenetic dynamics in evolution within the genus & beyond, etc.). But in terms of traditional taxomomy it is relatively under-documented, under-collected, and poorly understood! The iNaturalist community has helped augment the sightings in this very cryptic and under-sampled group...please consider helping expand our understanding by joining in the efforts of the Timema Discovery Project!!

+) I'm actually a generalist at heart, and have worked on a number of other groups at BugGuide, especially various genera in Diptera, and a few in Coleoptera, Hymenoptera, and Lepidoptera...not to mention some favorites in Neuroptera! :-)

...and, of course, I'm still very much enamored with plants!

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