Florida State Collection of Arthropods: Large, Growing and Important to Scientists
August 14, 2013
The Florida State Collection of Arthropods has been growing and changing since the 1950s. How big is the collection you ask? Well, it consists of approximately 10 million specimens in 22,400 drawers, 352,221 slides and 294,200 vials. It is one of the largest collections of arthropods in the United States.
Arthropods are invertebrate animals with an exoskeleton, a segmented body, and jointed appendages. They include insects, arachnids and crustaceans and make up more than 80 percent of all described living animal species.
In 1967, the Florida State Museum placed the arthropods contained in the University of Florida collections, about 13,000 specimens, on indefinite loan to the State Plant Board, predecessor of Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Division of Plant Industry, which was then located in the Seagle Building in Gainesville. Over time, most of the reference collections at the UF research stations in Gainesville, Belle Glade and Homestead, as well as most of the collection of the nematology and entomology departments at UF, became part of the collection.
In 2012, the FSCA received a stunning addition to its collection in the form of an enormous donation of 50,000 specimens from around the world from Dr. R.M. Baranowski, a retired entomologist from UF-IFAS-TREC. Julieta Brambila (USDA/APHIS, specialist on Lygaeidae), Mark Rothschild (FSCA volunteer), Andrew Jansen, Kurt Ahlmark, and Dr. Paul Skelley (all DPI employees) helped to obtain and integrate the donated material. It is a tremendously valuable addition to the Florida State Collection of Arthropods. After combining the collections, it was discovered the collection lacked only four of the Lygaeidae reported from Florida.
Led by Dr. Michael Thomas, Head Curator, the mission of the FSCA is to continue to build and maintain the best possible worldwide collection of terrestrial and aquatic arthropods for research, education and support of the regulatory function of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Entomologists at FDACS/DPI use the specimens in the FSCA to ensure correct identification of invasive insects that may enter Florida via plant material, international travelers, or the pet trade. DPI also has a phytoparasitic nematode collection, a herbarium with over 10,000 plants and nearly 1,500 vials of seeds, a plant pathology collection, a biological control laboratory, a fruit fly identification laboratory, and an advanced diagnostics laboratory. To learn more about the important work being done by FDACS/DPI, visit www.freshfromflorida.com/pi