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Charles W. Heckman
Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht
2003, 329 pp.
This book is one of a series that the publisher indicates is “designed to facilitate identification of South American insects likely to be encountered in, on, or near water, on wetland, and in unusual aquatic habitats. It permits identification of all known adults and larvae.” The last statement seems remarkable considering the vastness of the region, the diversity of the insect fauna, and the incompleteness of the taxonomic knowledge of the groups that will be covered.
These sorts of handbooks, other than the ones on dragonflies (Needham et al. 2000) and damselflies (Westfall and May 1996), are not available for North America, a better-collected region with more stability of the taxonomy of these groups. The stonefly fauna of South America is a complex mixture of arctoperlarian and antarctoperlarian species, with approximately 294 Perlidae, 70 Gripopterygidae, 5 Diamphinoidae, 2 Eustheniidae, 7 Austroperlidae, and 14 Notonemouridae species. Tables listing all the species treated in the book with geographical affinities would have been helpful.
In the “Scope of the Work” in the introduction, Heckman states, “The families recognized are mainly those in the key of O’Brien and Wibmer (1978), and some of the new families.…”¾a bizarre error, since that paper is about weevils? The only other reference in the introduction is Mayr (1963). Numerous other papers should have been included. There is no discussion about kinds of aquatic habitats of this huge region, biodiversity issues, conservation concerns, or even the myriad of water quality issues that plague the region, all timely topics.
The Introduction includes an unusual section entitled “An Appeal for Quality in Taxonomic Work.” Heckman writes that this appeal is addressed to two groups: those who are responsible for awarding research funds and the taxonomists themselves. He concludes, “the disappearance of the best taxonomists was accompanied by a decline in quality of ecological work.” He also severely criticizes the work of stonefly taxonomists, writing “many recent publications are extremely poor, providing either very sketchy descriptions or showing a very poor comprehension of the concept of species as a closed phylogenetic grouping of individuals, which may possess a considerable degree of individual variability.” What is the basis for these last two statements?
Heckman makes numerous other statements that can only be considered odd or naïve. For example, he states that “new species described from only one or two specimens should be regarded as questionable” and “with modern means of mass transportation available, there should be no serious obstacle to collecting more material from the locations at which the type specimen of the alleged new species was encountered, and funds should be provided for such collecting.” It appears that Heckman has done no or very little aquatic insect collecting in South America, as he is unfamiliar with the logistics and many other difficulties. Additionally, many type localities of earlier described species are vague, with even the country not known for certain or these localities no longer supporting those species.
The author seems confused about basic knowledge of zoological nomenclature. On page 3 of the introduction, he writes, “if the holotype has been lost or extensively damaged… may designate a lectotype apparently belonging to the species in question. This then replaces the holotype as a standard for recognizing the species, at least until the lost holotype or paratype is found.” On page 8, “specialists familiar with the genus or family, if any are presently active, will designate lectotypes for the species most likely to have been referred to by the earlier authors.” On page 31, “and specimens from the locations at which Navas’ types were collected that fit the published description of his species should be subjected to careful study to determine whether it would be justified to designate them as lectotypes.” The author needs to consult the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature (4th edition).
On page 4, Heckman states, “Some authors have designated larvae as the types of species congeneric with others known as adults. These individuals seem to be in such hurry to publish that they deliberately let the arduous task of matching larvae with adults to other researchers.” I assume these statements are veiled criticisms of mayfly workers, because it is not true for the Plecoptera. It would seem that Heckman is unfamiliar with the development of taxonomic information, with no understanding of how it has evolved in the stoneflies and other orders of insects.
Section 5 (none of the other sections are numbered) is a treatment of the morphology of stoneflies. Again, there are indications of a lack of knowledge for this group of insects. For example, on page 12, Heckman states that a few stoneflies resemble sialids, and “They differ from stoneflies in lacking all trace of cerci at the apex of the abdomen.” Much more distinctive is the fact that Neuroptera have five tarsal segments, whereas stoneflies have three. He also writes that “the abdomen is also divided into segments, which increase in number during larval development.” I know of no documentation of this phenomenon. Additionally, he seems to suggest that stonefly immatures may have haustellate mouthparts. On page 13, he states, “No known South American species possesses mouthparts modified for piercing, sucking, or seizing prey.” On page 14, he states, “The genitalia of both males and females are located at the apex of the abdomen. The genitalia of the female adult stonefly are usually on segment 8 rather than 10.” On page 15, he uses the phrase “Plectopteran larvae.” This category name has been used in the past for the Ephemeroptera. Also, in this section, there are brief and incomplete discussions of ecology, with no regional papers cited, and the zoogeography part covers two-thirds of a page.
Section 5.5: Taxonomy Problems is a continuation of harsh criticisms of workers who have attempted to sort out the difficult taxonomy of South American stoneflies, especially the genus Anacroneuria. On page 21, Heckman complains about the “break with the tradition” of “using dead languages” for binominal nomenclature of species. He infers to the fact that numerous South American stoneflies have been named for native cultures or places, and to patronyms. He concludes that this is “not a welcome development,” but “in spite of the shortcomings of their work,” current authors’ efforts “may herald a revival of interest in Neotropical stoneflies.” What does he mean by this statement?
If Heckman was so unhappy about past workers’ descriptions and illustrations, why did he not provide better descriptions, and especially new illustrations, as suggested in Section 5.6: Suggestions for Improvement?
As just one of many examples, in couplet 67 of the Anacroneuria key, he states, “Redescription will be necessary” for A. ypsilon Klapalek and A. fumigata Klapalek. Yet in couplet 68, he provides only vague color descriptions for these species. Did he examine any material? In actuality, the only definitive characters provided in this book for most species are the illustrations of the male and female genitalia, characters that Froehlich, Illies, Stark, and Zwick, and others have so expertly provided in refereed publications to distinguish species.
It would be assumed that new illustrations would be offered in such an alleged sweeping and comprehensive coverage of a group of insects, but only illustrations from previous publications by other authors, which differ greatly in quality, are used. I could not find anywhere in the book that permission was granted for the use of these illustrations taken from publications. It is merely stated that the figures are “based on” these illustrations. Most publishers require written permission for use of the work of others.
Section 5.7 is a compilation of other authors’ publications. Heckman uses the suborders Setipalpia and Filipalpia in his key on page 22, a classification scheme long rejected (Zwick 1973), yet he uses Antarctoperlaria, a current classification, on page 19. I have attempted to use his keys and found them difficult if not impossible to use for some of the genera, especially Anacroneuria. Most of the time, the original literature has to be consulted.
Heckman indicates in the key to the very difficult genus Anacroneuria that “It is recommended to use features other than male genitalia,” but he often infers that species can only be identified using male genitalia! The mixing of adult males and females in the keys is completely confusing, especially since in so many species only one sex is known. The use of single measurement values is misleading because most species range in length. The species couplets of many of the genera are not strictly opposable. In the Anacroneuria key, his couplets are long paragraphs of a confusing mixture of color characters, morphological features, and unclear statements. There are 216 key couplets for adult Anacroneuria. I cannot imagine a “nonspecialist” wading through these couplets successfully. Heckman does not provide a means to run forward and backward in the key with equal facility. He provides a key to the nymphs of only four species of Anacroneuria, when at least 217 species are covered in the adult treatment. Why?
In summary, this work is an impressive compilation of the published taxonomic information of South American stoneflies, but it has not added any original information. In fact, this book fails to accomplish its goal, stated on page 1: “to describe the morphology completely enough for the non-specialist to recognize his aquatic species.” I would still rely on the primary literature on South American stoneflies rather than purchase Heckman’s book. It is expensive, at US $197.00, and lacking in content. Constructive criticism is usually welcomed, but the author provides nothing better. I hope the publisher will insist on a more thorough review process for future volumes of this series.
Needham, J, M. Westfall, and M. May. 2000.The dragonflies of North America. University of California Press, Berkeley.
Westfall, M., and M. May. 1996.The damselflies of North America. Scientific Publishers, Gainesville, FL.
Zwick, P. 1973.Insecta: Plecoptera. Phylogenetisches system und katalog. Das Tierreich 94. Walter de Gruyter, Berlin.
B. C. Kondratieff
Colorado State University, Department of
Bioagricultural Sciences and Pest Management
Fort Collins, CO 80523
Vol. 50, No.4, Winter 2004