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Tortoise Beetles

There's some discrepancies between the names of tortoise beetles in BugGuide and what I've been finding on the web, so I suggest following the online version of the "World Catalog of the Cassidinae" (book listing) for that subfamily. The online version has photos of many species, and gives synonyms, subspecies, host plants, and geographic range info. New material is added regularly (last modification was 8 days ago).
If we followed this source, the names of 3 species currently shown in BugGuide would need changing:
- Charidotella bicolor would become C. sexpunctata (subspecies bicolor)
- Physonota calochroma would become Eurypepla calochroma
- Plagiometriona clavata would become Helocassis clavata

Tortoise Beetle Taxonomy
Taxonomy per Riley et al, 2003:
  • Charidotella sexpunctata bicolor (Fabricius) - jr syn: Charidotella bicolor Fabricius
  • Physonota calochroma floridensis (Blake) - jr syn: Eurypepla calochroma floridensis Blake
  • Plagiometriona clavata clavata (Fabricius) - Eastern U.S.
  • Plagiometriona clavata testudinaria (Boheman) - AZ to LA, s. to So. Am.
  • Helocassis - not listed...
I can't speak for the scholarship of Borowiec 1999, but I recommend following Riley et al for these reasons:
  1. All three authors reside (and have collected heavily) in the United States; Borowiec was published in Poland and I assume he resides there as well.
  2. Riley et al is more stable. Borowiec proposes 151 new synonyms and 397 new combinations out of just 2760 species names. That's a lot of changes particularly when you consider that 605 species lacked a type specimen! Riley et al propose singe digit number of changes.
  3. Riley et al is edited by LSU coleopterist Chris Carlton and is published (and endorsed) by the Coleopterists Society.
  4. Ed Riley has a personal collection of over 100,000 beeltes (strongly weighed towards Chrysomelids and Scarabs) and significantly, he has offered to ID beetle images on BugGuide that we are given permission to use on the Texas Beetle pages we are building.
As for the specifics of the proposed generic name of Helocassis, here are my recommended reasons for not using it:
  1. Helocassis is not listed in Arnett et al, 2002.
  2. The change that Borowiec proposes was first published in his catalogue, not in a peer reviewed journal.
  3. No North American publication that I'm aware of uses Helocassis.
Hope this helps. MQ, Austin

more on Borowiec
Based on info on his home page, Lech Borowiec is a taxonomist specializing in Cassidinae of the world. The online version of his 1999 "World Catalog of the Cassidinae" is frequently updated with new photos and additional species, and a list of his publications on this page shows that he has focused on tortoise beetle taxonomy for the past 20 years, so there is no question as to where his interests lie.

In publications of 1999 and 2002 he proposed that 8 species of Cassidinae be transferred to the genus Helocassis (a name proposed by Hincks in 1952). Those 8 species had been placed in Plagiometriona and/or Metriona and/or other genera by various authors at various times. I don't have a copy of the printed "World Catalog...", but I assume that it gives reasons for the transfers.

Borowiec also agreed with previous authors in placing the species calochroma in the genus Eurypepla (a name proposed by Boheman in 1854). Eurypepla is treated as a separate genus by Borowiec, not as a synonym or subgenus of Physonota, in which he lists 39 species.

I don't have a copy of "Catalog of Leaf Beetles of America North of Mexico" by Riley et al but seeing as it was published in 2003, I presume that the authors were aware of Borowiec's "World Catalog..." of 1999. Do you know whether they give reasons for not following Borowiec's classification of Helocassis clavata and Eurypepla calochroma, and if so, what those reasons are? For all I know, Borowiec's peers may consider him to be off-base, but if not, I don't think we should dismiss his work, especially since his online Catalog is continually updated and available to all of us at no cost.

Borowiec vs. Riley et al, and Arnett et al,

You mention several times that Borowiec's catalogue is frequently/continually updated, yet he doesn't include Riley et al's catalogue published by the Coleopterists Society several years ago, yet they list his catalogue...

Borowiec doesn't list Arnett et al, 2002 either yet they list him as well...

Most of Borowiec's publications are single authored and published in Polish Journals not readily available to us, not that BG.Net lists many journal articles (that I've noticed) in the Print Ref. section.

Borowiec lists Helocassis clavata (Fabricius, 1798) in 12 USA states (including NM) and no Canadian Provinces. Riley et al lists Plagiometriona clavata clavata (Fabricius) from 34 states (not including NM) and three Can. Prov. ....

Borowiec lists Helocassis testudinaria (Boheman, 1855) in the USA from Arizona, Florida[!]. Riley et al, list Plagiometriona clavata testudinaria (Boheman) from AZ, LA, NM, TX.

So basically, Borowiec considers clavata and testudinaria distinct enought to classify as separate species, yet he confuses the distribution of the two taxa...

Let's look at host plants. Borowiec list 11 plant species based on four [!] publications for Helocassis clavata. Clark et al, 2004 list 19 hosts based on 49 [!] references...

You mention photos as being as asset of Borowiec, yet compare Troy Bartlett's living photo of Gratiana pallidula (Boheman) vs. Borowiec's specimen shot. Cassidinae specimens loose their color and are not always very useful in ID'ing living specimens...

Having compared the treatment of just a few North American taxa, I would suggest that the scholarship of Borowiec falls well short of both Riley et al, and Clark et al. However, you are correct that Borowiec is available to all of us at no cost, but I think sometimes ya get what ya pays for...

MQ, Austin

PS: Clark et al, 2004 list Borowiec's 1999 catalogue but not vise-versa. So much for continual updates...

Texas Beetle Info

How about...
using American Beetles volumes 1 & 2 as a taxonomic reference for Coleoptera, and using Catalog of Leaf Beetles of America North of Mexico for Chrysomelidae, and using Cassidinae of the World for Cassidinae? BugGuide has the flexibility to do that.

This would give overall coverage in the direction of "more generalized" to "more specialized" (i.e. from order to family to subfamily). We would then have a solid foundation to work from, and at the same time be able to recognize the contributions of specialists in particular fields.

If I remember correctly, someone suggested the idea in a previous forum topic, and it generated favorable comments. It seems that we have an example situation here in which it could be applied.

More acurate to less acurate...

You mentioned that Borowiec has been interested in Cassidinae for 20 years. If you added up all the experience of the authors of the following seminal North American Chrysomelid publications (none of which are even acknowledged anywhere by Borowiec) it would probably be in the neighborhood of 200 years. (I'm pretty sure they've collected over a half million beetles between themselves.)

Clark, S.M., D.G. LeDoux, T.N. Seeno, E.G. Riley, A.J. Gilbert and J.M. Sullivan. 2004. Host plants of leaf beetle species occurring in the United States and Canada (Coleoptera: Megalopodidae, Orsodacnidae, Chrysomelidae exclusive of Bruchinae). Coleopterists Society, Special Publication no. 2, 476 pp.

Riley, E.G., Clark, S.M., Flowers, R.W., Gilbert, A.J., 2002. 124. Chrysomelidae Latreille 1802. Pp. 617-691. in: R.H. Arnett, M.C. Thomas, P.E. Skelley, J.H. Frank (editors) American Beetles, Volume 2, Polyphaga: Scarabaeoidea through Curculionoidea. CRC Press, Boca Raton.

Riley, E.G., S.M. Clark, & T.N. Seeno. 2003. Catalog of the leaf beetles of America north of Mexico (Coleoptera: Megalopodidae, Orsodacnidae and Chrysomelidae, excluding Bruchinae). Coleopterists Society, Special Publication no. 1, 290 pp.

Borowiec apparently never saw a subsp. he didn't like. Quoting you below, Borowiec declares there are four sspp. of C. sexpunctata just between Maryland and Florida!!! C. sexpunctata bicolor is, by most North American authorities the only NoAm ssp. of C. sexpunctata.

"Listed as Charidotella sexpunctata in Borowiec's World Catalog of the Cassidinae, 1999.
The subspecies bicolor is widely distributed in eastern North America; other subspecies occur in Maryland (marylandica), the Carolinas (pallida and aurichalcea), California (aurispendens), and Florida (floridana)."

We already established that Borowiec has incomplete and inacurate distribution data for North American taxa and woefully incomplete host plant references. Why you still cling to Boroiec is beyond me.

MQ, Austin

Texas Beetle Info

My reasoning
There's several reasons why I think Lech Borowiec is an appropriate choice as a taxonomic reference for tortoise beetles (Cassidinae). Over the past 21 years he has published 123 papers on Cassidinae taxonomy, in which he described more than 100 new species from around the world. Other taxonomists have named several beetle species and a genus in his honor, which answers my previous question on how Borowiec's work is perceived by his peers. His "World Catologue of the Cassidinae" listed 2,760 species names worldwide when published in 1999; as additional species are described, they are added to the online version of his Catalog which was last updated on 12 December 2005. This year, he described 11 new species of Cassidinae, and published a revision of the genus Chiridopsis in Madagascar. I think it's safe to say that Borowiec is currently the world's leading authority on the taxonomy of Cassidinae.

Borowiec's decision to include previously unpublished taxonomic information in his World Catalogue is similar to Malcolm Scoble's decision to do likewise in his catalogue of Geometrid Moths of the World, so I presume that the practice is acceptable when done by global experts in a particular taxonomic group. It's also not surprising to see a lag time between the publication of new information and its adoption by other taxonomists. This might be due to several reasons: financial and/or time constraints in examining the original author's work, or previous awareness of another author's work-in-progress such as a revision of a genus (and therefore a "wait & see" approach), or perhaps just a resistance to change. In the meantime, other taxonomists may opt to go with the status quo, but that action doesn't invalidate the new information, and doesn't necessarily indicate disagreement with it; I would think that when a recognized expert makes a new taxonomic proposal, the information is assumed to be correct until it is shown to be incorrect or in need of modification. In such case, reasons for rejecting the proposal would need to be published; otherwise, going with the status quo may simply indicate that no decision has been made.

Borowiec lists a large number of references to works dealing with the taxonomy and taxonomic history of Cassidinae. Several publications by Ed Riley et al that pertain to taxonomy of Cassidinae are cited on this page. So it seems that Borowiec is willing to recognize others when their work deals with the taxonomy of Cassidinae. If he also included references to works on non-Cassidinae Chrysomelidae (or works on beetles in general), the list would be very much larger than it already is, and contain many citations that didn't pertain specifically to Borowiec's field of expertise.

For the above reasons, I suggest that we continue to follow the taxonomy of Cassidinae according to Borowiec, who appears to be the world's leading authority on the taxonomy of Cassidinae.

world's leading publisher...

There are only a few taxonomic disagreements (at the genus and sp. level) between Riley et al, 2003 and Borowiec, L & J. Świętojańska's Cassidinae of the world - an interactive manual. However, Borowiec & Świętojańska have very incomplete (and even inaccurate) distributional and host plant information for (most if not all) North American tortoise beetles even though Borowiec & Świętojańska's interactive manual was last modified on 12 December 2005. Apparently, they are the ones taking the "wait & see" approach...

Significantly, Borowiec & Świętojańska don't include a single plant species authority. (By authority, I mean who described the plant species, not who reported a beetle feeding on the plant.) Nor do I find anywhere that they state what plant catalog they are following. Without this essential botanical information, the authority Borowiec & Świętojańska's interactive manual is greatly diminished. I trust that this requisite botanical information is not also lacking in Borowiec's catalogue.

To dispel the myth of 'most described species' equating with 'greatest authority,' one need look no further than Thomas Casey's body of work discussed here by Arthur Evans and James Hogue:

"His first papers on beetles appeared in 1884. During the next 40 years Casey described nearly 10,000 new species, publishing almost 9,000 pages on their taxonomy and biology.

"Although Colonel Casey made one of the greatest contributions to the taxonomy of the Coleoptera by any one man, much of his work has been soundly criticized. Many of his beetles have been determined by others to be synonymous with previously described species.

CHAPTER 1 A BRIEF HISTORY OF BEETLE STUDY IN CALIFORNIA, Thomas Lincoln Casey (1857 to 1925) Pg. 16-17 in: Evans, A.V. & J.N. Hogue. 2004. Introduction to California Beetles. University of California Press, Berkeley. 299 pp.

Given your comment that Borowiec & Świętojańska recognize four subspecies of Charidotella sexpunctata between MD & FL leads me to believe that they are in the Casey camp of giving inordinate weight to minor population differences.

Incidentally, I found 25 patronyms for Casey on Nearctica. There are probably more, but my copy of Arnett et al, is at home so I can't confirm that. I do note that Borowiec wasn't one of the four co-authors of the Chrysomelid chapter in American Beetles...

It's fine to consult Borowiec & Świętojańska, but given their absence of botanical authorities (fully detailed in Riley et al.), incomplete and inaccurate North American distributional data, and the fact that BugGuide.Net is restricted to North America, north of Mexico and that there is a Chrysomelid catalog ("Special Publication No.1" by the Coleopterists Society) for this specific geographic region, then it stands to reason that Riley et al must be the final arbiter in the few instances of taxonomic disagreement between them.

MQ, Austin

Texas Beetle Info

Distribution Data Discrepancies

I've mentioned several times that Borowiec & Świętojańska's distribution data are incomplete and/or inaccurate when compared to Riley et al. Here are a few examples of the vagueness/incompleteness of Borowiec & Świętojańska's distribution data:

(B & Ś data on top)

Helocassis clavata (Fabricius, 1798)
States: 12, Can Prov.: 0

Plagiometoina c. clavata (Fabricius)
States: 34, Can Prov: 3


Charidotella (s. str.) purpurea (Linnaeus, 1758)
"America" no further data...

Charidotella purpurea (Boheman)
States: 38, Can Prov: 7


Deloyala guttata (Olivier, 1790)
"Canada; USA;" no further data...

Deloyala guttata (Olivier)
States: 38, Can Prov: 8


Gratiana pallidula (Boheman, 1854)
"USA: Texas, S California" no further data...

Gratiana pallidula (Boheman)
States: 24


Jonthonota nigripes (Olivier, 1790)
S USA., no further data...

Jonthonota nigripes (Olivier)
States: 33 (incl. MI, MT, NJ, NY, OH, OR, PA, etc...), Can Prov: 3


Obviously, Riley et al are more authoritative here.

MQ, Austin

Texas Beetle Info

Whew, you guys are wearing me out!
Having read over all the various points here, I'm inclined to go with Quinn's suggestion to use Riley et al. This discussion does seem to need some sort of final arbitration, so let this be it.

Riley, Clark & Seeno. 2003 vs. Borowiec 1999
Unless I hear differently, I'll go ahead and change the few inconsistencies betw. Riley et al and Borowiec in favor of the Riley et al treatment, thus recognizing the monumental contributions of numerous North American specialists (S.M. Clark, R.W. Flowers, A.J. Gilbert, D.G. LeDoux, E.G. Riley, T.N. Seeno, and J.M. Sullivan) over the Polish systematist.

MQ, Austin

Texas Beetle Info

Seems like a lot of good reasons
to follow Quinn and Harpootlian advice and stick to Riley. If so, Plagiometriona needs to be restored. We also noticed that while there is a bicolor subspecies page for Charidotella, all the images are on the species page. Didn't know if we would want to move them.

Eurypepla calochroma floridensis
Per Riley et al, calochroma has been moved to Physonota:

Physonota calochroma floridensis (Blake)
- syn: Eurypepla calochroma floridensis Blake, 1966

MQ, Austin

Texas Beetle Info

Robin's page for Charidotella sexpunctata bicolor
Listed as Charidotella sexpunctata in Borowiec's World Catalog of the Cassidinae, 1999.
The subspecies bicolor is widely distributed in eastern North America; other subspecies occur in Maryland (marylandica), the Carolinas (pallida and aurichalcea), California (aurispendens), and Florida (floridana). No information could be found on the Internet describing how to distinguish these subspecies. As posted here.
Per Riley et al, there are only two NoAm subsp. of Charidotella sexpunctata:

Charidotella sexpunctata bicolor (Fabricius) - Widely distributed across NoAm, not just e. NoAm as Robin lists
Charidotella sexpunctata sexpunctata (Fabricius) - TX, south to SoAm

All the images for these taxa on BG.Net should be Charidotella sexpunctata bicolor.

MQ, Austin

Texas Beetle Info

Good suggestion
I can't think of any reason not to use that.

Another option
I see no particular problem with your suggestion, but - Catalog of Leaf Beetles of America North of Mexico might be better, because it should be easier to come by (includes searchable CD) and includes the whole Family specifically for our area. These, of course might be similarly arranged - haven't seen.

Host Plants of Leaf Beetle Species Occurring in the United States and Canada volume is also available.

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