It is with sincere admiration and great satisfaction that, as president of the World Biodiversity Association, I am going to present this third volume of the WBA series “Memoirs on Biodiversity”, composed by two important contributions of our colleague Roberto Pace, celebrated entomologist of great and intense productivity. The two works by Pace are both a great contribution to the knowledge of a group of beetles, the Staphylinidae Aleocharinae, collected in two areas of South America very interesting from a biogeographic point of view, namely the Chilean, Magellanean, Andean and Brazilian sub-regions. Suffice to say that in this volume 13 new genera and 149 new species are accurately described, not counting the new nomenclatural combinations, to emphasize its absolute scientific relevance. However, to be a little more specific, remembering that Aleocharinae are mainly predators commonly found in soils and litters, we must emphasize that the study of the soil macroinvertebrates is increasingly fundamental not only for natural sciences but also in agriculture. In fact, the study of soil fertility is turning to dealing with its biotic components and the certification Biodiversity Friend, developed by the World Biodiversity Association, has in the study of soil macroinvertebrates one of its most distinctive features. This accurate and extended deep examination of tribes, genera and species, is therefore not just an abstract taxonomic exercise, but it plays a key role in uncovering the high biodiversity expressed by the soils of our planet in all environments.
Only in consequence of this knowledge the consciousness arises that soils are not only of biological origin, as taught us C. R. Darwin, but are themselves alive, complex and therefore fragile.
So, we thank Roberto Pace of his great commitment and congratulate him on the results of his work. We also hope that such works as this spur new recruits into taxonomic studies, with the consciousness that only a great knowledge of biodiversity can reveal the deepest mechanisms of ecosystems and implement more effective strategies for nature conservation. Only if mankind can guarantee the conservation of biodiversity we can hope to continue to thrive on this amazing planet.
President of the World Biodiversity Association
The significance of a volume such as this, in which two sizeable contributions to the knowledge of the Coleoptera Staphylinidae South America are included, can be related to the first mission of WBA: “Discovering biodiversity to indicate an urgent need for surveying and learning about the biological diversity of our planet.” It is well known that the term “biodiversity” refers to more or less complex concepts, ranging from the identification of species living in an environmental, geographical or ecological unit, to the interpretation of the complexity of this population through mathematical tools. However, without any doubt, an essential step for the knowledge of biodiversity is the identification of how many and which species live in an area. Starting from 1758, the year of the official beginning of the modern systematic, corresponding to the publication of the tenth edition of the “Systema Naturae” of Linnaeus, the taxonomists made a huge effort to come to a complete list of species living on our planet, by means of gradually more refined instruments to identify species, and, at the same time, to define in the less ambiguous way the concept of species.
Where does this effort stand today? In the field of zoology the discovery of a new species of vertebrate today is an extraordinary fact but, for invertebrates, the situation is really different.
Perhaps only in Europe we can say to have an acceptable knowledge of the majority of taxonomic groups (but not of all); in the other continents, the situation is far from being acceptable.
The tropical rainforests of South America are important hotspots but they are one of the most unknown areas from this point of view. Therefore, because of the dramatic environmental changes of this region, surely every year innumerable unknown species become extinct without being ever discovered and described.
Different systematic groups contribute to biological diversity in a very varied way. Some taxa have only few species, and their contribution to diversity is not significant even if, sometimes, behind this scarcity there are very interesting biological phenomena, such as the so-called “relict” species. Other taxa are extremely abundant in species and the taxonomist must face a real challenge to locate and recognize them.
The Coleoptera Staphylinidae are without doubt one of the taxon most rich in species of the animal kingdom.
If in this taxon are included, as proposed by recent systematic theories, the subfamilies Scaphidiinae, Pselaphinae and Scydmaeninae, the total number of the species known till October 22, 2013 are 59394 (Newton, personal communication) and surely since then many other species have been described. These beetles, mostly predators, almost always have short elytra and abdominal segments telescopically overlap one another; they are spread in all terrestrial ecosystems, from the sea coasts to the highest altitudes.
Furthermore, in the Staphylinidae family the Aleocharinae subfamily represents by far the largest group, so that about one out of three species of Staphylinidae, among those known, belongs to it.
In addition to being a group extremely rich in species, the South American Aleocharinae are known in a very incomplete form. If we exclude the few species described in the 1800s, only one “classic” twentieth-century coleopterologist, Max Bernhauer, produced a significant number of works on the South American Aleocharinae (eight publications) and, only for Chile monographic treatments exist, although quite deficient (Fairmaire & Germain, 1861, Révision des Coleopteres du Chili; Coiffait & Saiz 1967, Aleocharinae du Chili) .
The taxonomic study of Roberto Pace is inserted in this context. In a series of studies published between 1982 and 2014, Pace described and illustrated with his well-known ability 918 species of South American Aleocharinae.
His approach to taxonomy is simple and classic; basically he uses the tarsal formulas and the structure of the mouthparts to define the superior taxa, genera and subfamilies, following a procedure adopted since the 1800s by the fathers of taxonomic studies on Staphylinidae, Wilhelm Ferdinand Erichson and Ernst Gustav Kraatz, while the identification of the species is largely based on the study of male and female genitalia, aedeagus and spermatheca, which starting from the work of René Jeannel was the basis of the coleopterological taxonomy in the second half of the 1900s.
In a time where the taxonomy on molecular basis seems to be the new frontier of these studies, and the phylogenetic approach is considered essential to give to the taxonomic works a “license of scientificity”, allowing them to be hold on the most important reviews (the ones with “impact factor”, to be clear about this), this work of Roberto Pace may seem dated and, therefore, of little importance, but it is absolutely not so.
The study of taxonomy ever lives in alternating phases of development, which starting from methodological innovations redefine the species already known and, on this basis, identify new ones of them. Generally an alternation follows between a “splitting” phase, with description of many new species, and a “lumping” phase with revision (and often synonymization) of species already described.
In taxonomic groups and geographic areas in which the taxonomic tradition is ancient and wide, for example in the Palearctic Lepidoptera Rhopalocera, the study phase based on genitalia has a long tradition, and only molecular studies allow us “to see” where morphology is blind. In groups and in areas poorly studied, as in the case of neotropical Aleocharinae, it is not possible to jump from an almost null knowledge to a molecular approach: the resources and time needed would prevent a productive work.
The gap can be bridged only by patient, and often exhausting, work of taxonomists who are not driven by career problems, such as Roberto Pace; he describes his work as “artisanal” (and how often today we feel the need of good artisans).
It will be up to others in the next future to resume critically the problem and give a more complete meaning to the idea of biodiversity that the work of Pace begins to disclose to us.
The subfamily Aleocharinae, which occurs in all zoogeographic regions, includes a great number of species. They live in all environments frequented by Staphylinidae, most of them are found in forest areas. Following the publication of a large contribution to the knowledge of Aleocharinae from Chile (Pace, 2009) based on material gathered by Dr. A.F. Newton of the Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago, Prof. Herbert Franz, Wien, Dr. Mauro Daccordi, Verona, further new material from Chile is studied and described in the present paper. The study of the Aleocharinae from Chile has been possible after the examination of the entire or partial Chilean typical series of the species described by Erichson, Solier, Fairmaire & Germain, Fauvel, Schubert and Bernhauer. The examination of these typical series from Chile has been accompanied by the study of the species collected in Patagonia described by Scheerpeltz, and in Argentina, Bolivia, and Brazil described by Bernhauer.
Material and methods
The specimens of the present paper have been collected in Chile by private collectors, mostly by Tomás Cekálovic, (material now in FMNHC) and Dr. Mauro Daccordi, a well known entomologist and researcher of Verona.
The taxonomic study of the Aleocharinae involves difficulties that are best resolved through examination of the characters of the aedeagus and spermatheca for the identification of the species, and of the shape of the ligula and maxillae, mostly to define genera. Both male and female specimens were dissected and the genital and oral structures mounted in Canada balsam (on small transparent plastic cards beneath the specimen). The genital and oral structures were studied using a compound microscope and drawn by means of eyepiece reticule. The habitus of the new species were photographed by me using a digital Canon Power Shot A610, 5.0 mega pixel camera. All the figures are drawings made by the author were modified and arranged in plates using Adobe Photoshop software.
The species here described are clearly recognizable from the sketches of habitus, aedeagus and spermatheca. In the case of the subfamily Aleocharinae, a long detailed description does not always allow accurate identification of species. Illustrations of the aedeagus and/or of the spermatheca, together with the habitus, are needed, in addition to the description, to identify specimens, as confirmed by many colleagues. For this reason the descriptions are concise and limited; graphically ambiguous characters which cannot be illustrated, such as reticulation and granulation, are described briefly. Details such as the pronotum distinctly transverse and broader than the head are omitted from the description if this is obvious from the photograph of the habitus.
The holotypes of the new species and all other specimens are deposited in the collection of the Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago (from Zanetti collection, Verona, Italy) and in Daccordi collection (Verona, Italy).