Systematic Entomology (ENT 576)

Course information

Instructor: Dr. Greg Courtney; office: 432 Science II; lab: 404 (or 419) Science II; phone: 294-4017 (Office), 294-3191 (Lab), 294-1628 (Museum); e-mail:

Required Text:Triplehorn, C.A. & N.F. Johnson. 2005. Borror and Delong's Introduction to the Study of Insects (7th edition). Thomson Brooks/Cole, Belmont, CA.

Supplemental Readings: Other papers, book chapters, etc. will be placed under "Reading Assignments". In addition to textbook chapters, you will be responsible for reading any assigned articles or book chapters.

Lecture: MWF, 9:00 AM, Room - 433 Science II

Laboratory: U, 12:10-3:00 PM, H, 9:00-11:50 AM, Room - 433 Science II

Course Objectives

  1. Introduce the principles and methods of systematic entomology;
  2. Review insect morphology to understand the basis for insect diversity & success;
  3. Overview the major habitats of insects (e.g., soil-, aquatic-, forest-ecosystems) and the adaptations of insects to those habitats;
  4. Survey major groups of insects and become familiar with their morphology, ecology and evolution;
  5. Learn methods and gain experience in the collection, curation & identification (via taxonomic keys) of insects

Lecture Format

Lectures will be organized in two major blocks, the first providing basic knowledge of systematic biology and insect morphology, and the second focusing on specific taxa. Introductory lectures will cover general principles of systematic entomology, including zoological nomenclature and methods of phylogenetic analysis and classification. These lectures will also include discussions about certain morphological issues or problems (e.g., the evolution of wings) and about adaptations that permit insects to colonize a diversity of environments and/or exhibit certain life styles. Subsequent lectures will focus on one or more insect orders, and will focus on: (1) general morphology, particularly key taxonomic characters; (2) diversity and contemporary distributions; (3) ecology, including habitat, habits and life histories; (4) economic importance and role in ecosystem; (5) cladistic basis for taxon; (6) fossil record, geological age and biogeography; (7) phylogenetic relationships and classification of family groups; (8) potential for future research, and specific areas in need of study.

Laboratory Format

As reflected by the grading criteria (see below), this is a field- and laboratory oriented course. The laboratory will be organized "taxonomically," with each session focused on one or more orders of insects. Major insect groups and insects you are likely to encounter in the field will be emphasized. Field trips to local habitats will be an integral part of the course. During each laboratory you will see preserved and [when possible] live representatives of several families, which you will learn to identify by using a key or by sight. If time permits, you can work on your own collections during regularly scheduled laboratories. You must keep a detailed laboratory / field notebook.

Field Trips

Because of the required insect collection, field work will be an important component of this course. The department will make available sampling equipment (nets, vials, etc.) during the semester, allowing for independent collecting by students. There will also be several opportunities for the class, in whole or part, to participate in field trips. Weekend field trips to local habitats will be scheduled periodically during the semester. Although field trips will be optional, you are urged to participate in at least one weekend trip. These trips will provide outstanding opportunities to collect a diversity of insect families.

Grading Criteria

  1. Examinations: Your performance in this course will be evaluated by lecture and laboratory exams, an insect collection, and occasional, short, take-home assignments. All lecture exams, including the final, will contain a variety of questions (multiple choice, short answer, and an essay or two). Laboratory exams will be "practicals," emphasizing morphology and the identification of insect families. Final exams will emphasize material after the second midterm, but will be partly (approximately 30%) comprehensive.
  2. Insect collection: The insect collection is an major part of your course grade because it is a reflection of your comprehension of field and laboratory techniques, including your ability to identify taxa. Expertise in these techniques are valuable to anyone seeking a career or further education in entomology. The collection will consist of a minimum of 80 taxonomic units (families and/or genera). The collection grade is based on content (e.g., number of taxa) and organization / presentation / quality (e.g., quality of specimens). The course emphasizes identification of adult insects; however, the immature stages of certain groups will be accepted in the collection and will count as a separate taxonomic unit; e.g., if you submit the adult and larva of a carabid beetle, you will receive credit for two taxonomic units.

Field observations and the careful recording of data are an important supplement to the insect collection. You will be expected to record data during your field studies, including: (1) location: state, county, and more specific information (i.e., enough to allow a future collector to find the site); (2) collection date; (3) collector's name; (4) collection method, if appropriate (e.g., sweep net, light trap, emergence trap, Berlese funnel); (5) habitat or host information. Furthermore, you must organize and present your collection in such a manner that specimens will be useful to future students and scientists. This contributes toward specimen "quality" and your collection grade. Refer to chapter 35 in the text.

Course policies

Attendance. If you are unable to attend class due to illness or some other reason, please let the instructor know ahead of time.

Disability resources. If you have a documented disability and anticipate needing accommodations in this course, please make arrangements to meet with me soon. Please request that a Student Disability Resource staff send a SAAR form verifying your disability and specifying the accommodation you will need

Honesty. Group studying can be a very effective learning tool, and I expect that you will discuss course material with each other. Except where an assignment is specifically for teams, however, the work you submit must be your own. All sources for your paper must be identified, and all direct quotations must be attributed—plagiarism is a very serious offense. Disciplinary action will be initiated in any suspected case of academic dishonesty.

Updated 2011-08-18 13:51