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REMEMBRANCE: Terry L. Erwin (1940–2020): Un científico muy Agra‐dable

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... The DNA barcodes were then used to identify the diets of beetle species at locations along an altitudinal gradient to model the ecology and evolution of plant-herbivore interactions under the effects of climate change on plant extinctions and the co-extinctions of associated insect herbivores (García-Robledo et al. 2013). For García-Robledo and the members of his research team Terry was considered a very Agra dable collaborator, mentor, and friend ('agradable' means nice in Spanish) (García Robledo 2020; García-Robledo et al. 2020). ...
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Terry Erwin’s race to document arthropod diversity inspired taxonomists, systematists, ecologists, evolutionary biologists, and the conservation community at large, as his curatorial work of more than 50 years at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History and prolific publication record attests. The biography compiles public records, publications, as well as personal memoirs to describe the context in which Erwin’s studies with carabid beetles evolved as formalization of concepts, such as biological diversity, megadiverse countries, biodiversity loss, and conservation biology, will become central for science in the upcoming years. Awareness to explore new frontiers such as the forest canopy and Erwin’s studies in tropical forests, his easy-going personality, and dedicated mentoring attracted colleagues, students, and the general public, making him one of the leaders of tropical biology in the world.
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Terry Erwin's influence on amateur entomologists is described by means of a personal experience form a field trip to Ecuador in 1988.
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Almost 40 years ago, Terry L. Erwin published a seemingly audacious proposition: There may be as many as 30 million species of insects in the world. Here, we translate Erwin's verbal argument into a diversity-ratio model—the Erwin Equation of Biodiversity—and discuss how it has inspired other biodiversity estimates. We categorize, describe the assumptions for, and summarize the most commonly used methods for calculating estimates of global biodiversity. Subsequent diversity-ratio extrapolations have incorporated parameters representing empirical insect specialization ratios, and how insect specialization changes at different spatial scales. Other approaches include macroecological diversity models and diversity curves. For many insect groups with poorly known taxonomies, diversity estimates are based on the opinions of taxonomic experts. We illustrate our current understanding of insect diversity by focusing on the six most speciose insect orders worldwide. For each order, we compiled estimates of the (a) maximum estimated number of species, (b) minimum estimated number of species, and (c) number of currently described species. By integrating these approaches and considering new information, we believe an estimate of 5.5 million species of insects in the world is much too low. New molecular methodologies (e.g., metabarcoding and NGS studies) are revealing daunting numbers of cryptic and previously undescribed species, at the same time increasing our precision but also uncertainty about present estimates. Not until technologies advance and sampling become more comprehensive, especially of tropical biotas, will we be able to make robust estimates of the total number of insect species on Earth. Abstract in Spanish is available with online material.
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To fully understand the ecology and evolution of plant–herbivore interactions, information regarding the life history of both immature and adult insect stages is essential. However, most knowledge of plant–herbivore associations is derived from observations of adults. One reason for this bias is that species identification of immature stages is usually challenging. DNA barcodes can be used to identify immature stages to the species level. This technique compares short sequences of the appropriate DNA barcode loci [e.g. mitochondrial cytochrome c oxidase subunit I (COI) gene for insects] of an unidentified specimen with a known DNA barcode library. The accuracy of DNA‐based identifications depends on the comprehensiveness of the DNA barcode library. We generated a comprehensive DNA barcode library for a community of rolled‐leaf beetles (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae) in a premontane tropical forest in Costa Rica. The DNA barcode COI accurately identified all beetle species included in the study. Using this DNA barcode library, we identified eggs and larvae of Cephaloleia histrionica Baly with 100% confidence. This new record of C. histrionica is unique in that this species completes its life cycle on a bromeliad, whereas most Cephaloleia species are associated with plants from the order Zingiberales. The life cycle, diet breadth, immature stages, and sexual dimorphism are described for C. histrionica. © 2013 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2013, 110, 189–198.