Jason Bond, UC Davis professor of entomology and the Evert and Marion Schlinger endowed chair in insect systematics is a newly selected co-editor-in-chief of the journal Insect Systematics and Diversity (ISD), published by the Entomological Society of America (ESA).
He and Hojun Song, an associate professor of entomology at Texas A&M University, will serve a four-year term, starting Jan. 1. They succeed founding editors Sydney Cameron and James Whitfield, both professors of entomology at the University of Illinois, Urbana.
ISD, launched in 2017, publishes research on systematics, evolution, and biodiversity of insects and related arthropods, including comparative and developmental morphology, conservation, behavior, taxonomy,molecular phylogenetics, paleobiology, natural history, and phylogeography. The journal is heralded for its cutting-edge research, according to an ESA news release issued Oct. 12.
"Dr. Song and Dr. Bond are esteemed leaders in their areas of research, and their knowledge and experience with the evolving techniques in systematics, evolution, genomics, and beyond make them ideal for this role," ESA President Michelle Smith said in the press release. "My fellow ESA Governing Board members and I are pleased to welcome them aboard, and we look forward to seeing them build upon the excellent foundation that Dr. Cameron and Dr. Whitfield have established."
ESA vice president Jessica Ware, who chaired the search committee, praised Bond and Song for their "experience and enthusiasm" for advancing the journal. "They both impressed the committee with their editorial skill, scientific expertise, and commitment to ESA's mission and vision for its family of journals. ISD aims to publish high-impact, integrative research, and I'm confident the journal will be in good hands." (See news release.)
Jason Bond. Bond joined the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology faculty in 2018 from Auburn University, Alabama, where he directed the Auburn University Museum of Natural History (2011–2016), and served as professor and chair of the Auburn Department of Biological Sciences (2016–2018). He specializes in the evolutionary diversification of terrestrial arthropods, specifically spiders, millipedes, and tenebrionid beetles. (See Bond laboratory.)
Bond holds a bachelor's degree in biology (1993) from Western Carolina University, and two degrees from Virginia Tech: a master's degree in biology (1995) and a doctorate in evolutionary systematics (1999). He began his career as a research associate at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago in 1990. His credentials include associate editor of Systematic Biology (2019–present) and editor of New World Mygalomorphae for Zootaxa (2016–present).
Hojun Song. Song holds three degrees in entomology: a bachelor's degree (2000) from Cornell University and both his master's (2002) and doctorate (2006) from Ohio State University. He began his career as a research fellow in 2006 at Brigham Young University, and then served as an assistant professor and curator of the Stuart M. Fullerton Collection of Arthropods, University of Central Florida, before joining the Texas A&M faculty in 2015. He was named editor-in-chief of the journal Insect Systematics and Evolution in 2014. He specializes in arthropod systematics, biodiversity and evolution. (See Song laboratory.)
"I am honored to be selected as a new co-editor-in-chief of Insect Systematics and Diversity, and I am excited about the possibility of moving the field of insect systematics in this new capacity," Song told ESA. "The inaugural co-editors-in-chief, Drs. Sydney Cameron and Jim Whitfield, have done a tremendous job launching the journal. Dr. Bond and I have some big shoes to fill, but we will do our best to make sure that ISD continues to become an outlet for publishing the best work in insect systematics, evolution, and biodiversity."
A tip of the insect net to the new co-editors-in-chief!
UC Davis Resources:
- Spotlight on Jason Bond (UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology)
- A Spider Is Always Watching You! (Bohart Museum of Entomology Open House)
- Name That Spider: Meet Cryptocteniza kawtak (UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology)
- Shouldn't we be paying more attention to the undiscovered life on this planet while we're exploring other planets for signs of life?
- Shouldn't taxonomy be more valued, appreciated and funded? Shouldn't we be offering more encouragement and training to our students?
Yes, says Jason Bond, the Evert and Marion Schlinger Endowed Chair in Insect Systematics, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
Bond, who joined the UC Davis faculty in 2018 from Auburn University, Alabama, where he directed the Auburn University Museum of Natural History and chaired the Department of Biological Sciences, focuses his research “primarily on the discovery, conservation, and investigation of the pattern and processes responsible for the diversity of life.”
“My research program has been principally aimed to 1) document biodiversity by discovering and describing new species (and higher taxa, genera and families), 2) identify various dimensions of diversity and those underlying evolutionary processes that generate it, and 3) use these findings to identify threatened or endangered populations and taxa,” he writes on his website. “My organismal expertise centers on terrestrial arthropods (spiders, millipedes, and tenebrionid beetles). Current research projects focus on spider and beetle speciation pattern and process, higher level phylogenomics of millipedes and spiders, and understanding broad-scale patterns of biodiversity and relationship to biogeography, habitat destruction, and climate (contemporary and historical).”
“Typically I think the traditional definition of taxonomy is ‘the science of describing and classifying species,'” Bond told us following the podcast. “I think this definition typically misrepresents taxonomy as a purely descriptive science, which it is not. I think taxonomy might be better defined as ‘the science of species delimitation and classification.' Modern taxonomic species are the outcome of an experiment that tests integrative (i.e., using morphological, genetic, ecological, physiological, etc. ) hypotheses of homology, variation and evolutionary relatedness. These species are serve as hypotheses subject to further testing and refinement as more data (e.g., specimens, genomic, etc.) become available.”
Patrick launched the podcast by describing Bond as “one of my hero arachnologists.”
Bond began by calling attention to the “massive number” of undescribed species in the world. For example, there are about 50,000 described species of spiders, he said, but there are “probably 10 times more than that.” Scores of undescribed species are shelved in insect museums.
When Patrick asked him why there's a taxonomic impediment, Bond commented that “most fundamentally, it's hard work,” and that “very few people are being trained as taxonomists” and very few are hiring them. “If you're a taxonomist working on an obscure group,” you may be the first to be cut from your position, he said.
Bond declared there's a big difference between “identifying arthropods and the science of taxonomy. Someone did the underlying science to allow a person to make that identification.”
“What we're talking about is evolutionary biology,” Bond explained. “We seldom see ads at big universities advertising for a spider taxonomist or a mayfly taxonomist. They want evolutionary biologists. As we train students, we should train them as taxonomists who can clearly sell themselves as evolutionary biologists.”
The National Science Foundation (NSF) used to train students in taxonomy in its PEET (Partnerships for Enhancing Expertise in Taxonomy) program. But PEET is now longer accepting grant proposals.
“If we visited another planet,” Bond said, “and discovered new forms of life, it would be nearly impossible to apply DNA barcoding…there is no silver magic bullet out there to automate species discovery and classification.”
When asked how he would resolve taxonomic impediment, Bond related that more exposure and more funding would certainly help. “We spent $2.9 billion on the Perseverance Mars probe,” Bond said, but in comparison, the annual budget of the NSF's Division of Environmental Biology (which includes grants for taxonomists) amounts to about $155 million. “We spend massive amounts of money exploring other planets than the planet we are on.”
“We're ignoring species extinctions in our own back yard,” Patrick added.
Bond agreed. “While we're trying to find intelligent life on other planets, we are destroying some of the life on our own,” the UC Davis professor said, adding that the next frontier--space exploration—always seems to be more exciting than what we have here.
Bond, who has described more than 100 new taxa--families, genera, species of spiders and millipedes--advocates more attention to taxonomy to “generate the enthusiasm that's out there. We need a hero.”
“If I were independently wealthy, I'd establish a taxonomic foundation or institute where we hire taxonomists to work in-residence,” Bond said, adding that to move science forward, we should bring them in from all over world to work on their regional fauna; and give them the training they need--“at least five years to really work and develop a team.”
They share a name, for one thing.
When evolutonary biologist-taxonomist Chris Hamilton, a former doctoral student at Auburn University, Alabama, and now on the University of Idaho faculty, led a research team near the site of California's Folsom State Prison to look for tarantulas, he discovered a new species, solid black in color.
He named it Aphonopelma johnnycashi after Johnny Cash, the legendary country singer known as "The Man in Black."
Fast forward to this week:
Hamilton, now assistant professor in the Department of Entomology, Plant Pathology and Nematology, will speak on tarantula diversity when he presents a virtual seminar at 4:10 p.m., Wednesday, April 21 to the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. His title: "Understanding Aphonopelma Diversity across the Madrean Pine-Oak Woodlands Hotspot by Integrating Western Science and Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK)." Click on this link to access the seminar.
Hosting the seminar is Jason Bond, the Evert and MarionSchlinger Endowed Chair in Insect Systematics, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, and Hamilton's major professor at Auburn University. Hamilton received his doctorate in evolutionary biology from Auburn University in 2015, after earning his master's degree in biology in 2009 from the University of Texas at Arlington.
"Dr. Hamilton does great work on terrestrial arthropods with an emphasis on mygalomorph spiders (trapdoor spiders, tarantulas and their kin)," Bond commented.
Hamilton's abstract: "Within the world of theraphosid systematics, the genus Aphonopelma has received considerable attention in recent years. But despite these efforts, the group's diversity remains poorly understood in the Madrean Pine-Oak Woodlands Hotspot located in the southwestern United States and northern Mexico--an ecoregion known for its exceptional biodiversity and endemicity. It has long been thought that Aphonopelma was a 'taxonomic and nomenclatural nightmare' because across their distributions, similarly sized species are often frustratingly similar morphologically. This is all too obvious when examining populations in the Madrean Sky Islands and Sierra Madre Occidental, as their shared evolutionary history and divergence in similar isolated habitats has produced very similar phenotypes. This work looks to employ an integrative approach for delimiting species that incorporates information from morphology (traditional and advanced techniques) and molecules (phylogenomics), as well as data on ecology (niche, distribution, and behavior) and how Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) of the Apache and Tohono O'odham peoples may help piece the puzzle together. As we continue to investigate some of the more remote and hard-to-access mountain ranges, we have discovered that most independent ranges harbor their own divergent and distinct lineages that may represent new species."
Hamilton received his doctorate in entomology from Auburn University; his master's degree from the University of Texas at Arlington; and his bachelor's degree from Western Kentucky University.
Hamilton's naming of the new tarantula species drew widespread interest. Lindsay Miles of Auburn University's Office of Communications and Marketing wrote a 2016 news release: "The species, Aphonopelma johnnycashi, was found in California near the site of Folsom State Prison, which Cash made famous in his song Folsom Prison Blues. The mature male Aphonopelma johnnycashi measures up to 6 inches across and is generally solid black in color, much like Cash's distinctive style of dress from which his nickname, 'The Man in Black,' was coined."
"Along with the Aphonopelma johnnycashi, Hamilton's study determined there are only 29 species of tarantula in the United States, 14 of which are new to science. Researchers had previously identified 55 species. The new descriptions nearly double the number of species known from the American Southwest, a region described as a biodiversity hotspot featuring frigid mountains and scorching deserts."
The team, Miles wrote, "spent more than a decade searching for tarantulas throughout the American Southwest and studied almost 3,000 specimens, undertaking the most comprehensive taxonomic study ever preformed on a group of tarantulas." The study was part of Hamilton's dissertation, which was funded by two National Science Foundation grants made to Auburn University.
In the news story, Bond, then chair of the Department of Biological Sciences, praised Hamilton as "an accomplished field biologist and taxonomist (who) is also doing cutting-edge genomics research."
Miles pointed out that "Although this is the first time Johnny Cash has been honored by an Auburn researcher, Auburn University professors have garnered national attention in the past for naming celebrities, characters and even President Obama, with a species name. Bond has named species of trapdoor spiders after U2's Bono, actress Angelina Jolie and talk show host Stephen Colbert, to name a few. Jonathan Armbruster, also of the Department of Biological Sciences, made headlines last year when he named a newly discovered catfish species after the Star Wars fan favorite, Greedo."
Cooperative Extension specialist Ian Grettenberger is coordinating the spring seminars and may be reached at email@example.com for any technical questions.
If you engage in social media, you've probably seen a "what-is-this" query about a spider that some unsuspecting person discovered quite unexpectedly in a garden, bedroom, bathroom or garage. Triple exclamation points usually accompany "Yecch!!!" (Expletives usually require quadruple exclamation points.)
For a good general view of spiders, check out the UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program's newly revised "Spiders" Pest Note.
"Many people fear or dislike spiders," according to the site, but "for the most part, spiders are beneficial because of their role as predators of insects and other arthropods, and most cannot harm people. Spiders that might injure people—for example, black widows—generally spend most of their time hidden outside homes in woodpiles or in clutter in the garage. The spiders commonly seen out in the open during the day are unlikely to bite people."
Spiders, which are arachnids, differ from insects in that they have eight legs (not six) and have no wings or antennae.
UC IPM offers information on black widow spiders, yellow sac spiders and recluse spiders (which, contrary to popular opinion, are NOT found in California). The website also touches on jumping spiders, hobo spiders, common house spiders, and tarantulas. A table, illustrated with photos, lists the common spider families in North America, including:
- Agelenidae, funnel weavers or grass spiders
- Araneidae, orb weavers or garden spiders
- Clubionidae (including Corinnidae), sac spiders or twoclawed hunting spiders
- Linyphiidae (=Microphantidae), dwarf spiders
- Lycosidae, wolf spiders
- Oxyopidae, lynx spiders
- Salticidae, jumping spiders
- Theridiidae, cobweb, cobweb weaver, or combfooted spiders
- Thomisidae, crab spiders or flower spiders
What about spider bites? "Unlike mosquitoes, spiders do not seek people in order to bite them," UC IPM says, tongue in cheek. "Generally, a spider doesn't try to bite a person unless it has been squeezed, lain on, or similarly provoked to defend itself. Moreover, the jaws of most spiders are so small that the fangs cannot penetrate the skin of an adult person. Sometimes when a spider is disturbed in its web, it may bite instinctively because it mistakenly senses that an insect has been caught."
If you've got a hankering to see a live tarantula (who doesn't?), you can do so when the Bohart Museum of Entomology at UC Davis opens its doors again to the public. The Bohart Museum, home of nearly eight million insect specimens, a gift shop (now online), and a live "petting zoo" (think Madagascar hissing cockroaches, walking sticks and taranatulas) is located in Room 1124 of the Academic Surge Building on Crocker Lane. UC Davis spider expert Professor Jason Bond and his lab usually present a program there at least once a year or engage with folks at the open houses. Bond serves as the Evert and Marion Schlinger Endowed Chair in Insect Systematics, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. (See his lab website)
As an aside, Professor Bond "bonds" with spiders. Yes, he does. And he's never met a spider he didn't like.
In fact, it's the cover story in the journal Insect Systematics and Diversity. Bond's image of the spider graces the cover.
And it's apparently the first spider research paper published in the journal.
The title: "Phylogeny, Evolution, and Biogeography of the North American Trapdoor Spider Family Euctenizidae (Araneae: Mygalomorphae) and the Discovery of a New ‘Endangered Living Fossil' Along California's Central Coast."
Bond, the Evert and Marion Schlinger Endowed Chair in Insect Systematics, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, discovered the female spider in 1997, and figured at the time it might be a new genus. But despite repeated trips to the site, he could not find a male for 22 years. The male proved elusive until pitfall trap sampling in the fall of 2019.
It is rare to find a genus in the field, the professor said. The usual place is in museum collection.
Name That Species
Bond named the genus Cryptocteniza and then launched a "Name-That-Spider" contest that drew some 200 entries from all over the world. Entomologist Kirsten Pearsons, a UC Davis alumnus who holds a doctorate in entomology from Pennsylvania State University, submitted the winning species name, “kawtak,” the Mutsun tribe name for "seashore." The Native American tribe settled in that area.
The journal article details the spider's phylogeny, evolution,biogeography and discovery. Co-authors are Chris Hamilton, assistant professor in the Department of Entomology, Plant Pathology and Nematology, University of Idaho, Mosco of the University of Idaho, Moscow; two Bond lab members, doctoral student Rebecca Godwin and project scientist James Starrett; and Joel Ledford, an assistant professor of teaching in the Department of Plant Biology, College of Biological Sciences.
Trapdoor spiders are so named because they construct their burrows with a corklike or wafer trap door made of soil, vegetation and silk.
Of the genus name, Cryptocteniza, Bond says that the adjective “hidden or secret” is prefixed to Cteniza, the Greek feminine noun “comb.” The latter refers to the comb-like rastellum (row of stiff spines on the chelicera) common in taxa and formerly assigned to the spider family Ctenizidae (e.g., Eucteniza). The prefix refers to both the diminutive form of the rastellum and the seemingly “hidden in plain sight” nature of the genus, he says. Bond credited Vera Opatova, a postdoctoral fellow in his lab, with helping to formulate the genus name.
Good Day Sacramento Segment
The newly discovered spider has not only drawn widespread interest in the scientific world, but in the news media. A Sacramento television program, Good Day Sacramento, today featured the UC Davis professor, the spider, and the naming contest in an informative and entertaining segment. Host Cody Stark suggested that the next spider ought to be named "Cody" and spelled it out: "C-O-D-Y."/span>