Date of this Version
Ballantyne L, Jusoh WFA. 2021. The strange case of Colophotia miranda Olivier, 1886 (Coleoptera: Lampyridae: Luciolinae). Insecta Mundi 0857: 1–9.
A single male specimen identified as Colophotia miranda Olivier (Coleoptera: Lampyridae: Luciolinae) by Blair and housed in the Natural History Museum, London, is redescribed, and its identification and affinities explored.
Ernest Olivier, who first described Colophotia miranda in 1886, was then curator of insects at the Muséum nationale d’Histoire naturelle, Paris (MNHN). Effectively for lampyridologists he was the first in a narrow line of firefly taxonomists. Thanks to Olivier we have our first subfamily classifications, keys, catalogues and species descriptions; work that has undergone much revision and expansion in the last 100 years.
One of Olivier’s strengths, for those of us who followed him, lies in the meticulous way he organized his collections. When LB last examined it in 2015 it was still arranged in an order of taxa that reflected the chronological sequence of his publications. And the sequence of the specimens within those taxa reflected his publications too. It was thus possible to examine his collection and find the specimens he referred to in various publications. As such it is a veritable treasure trove of information for those of us who follow him. Usually.
Why is this an issue now? Today we list all our specimens examined, designate types and so on, which permits accurate relocation of type and other material. It is Olivier’s collection that enables us to partly overcome the deficiencies of taxonomic descriptions of over 100 years ago where present day requirements were not expected nor met.
But Olivier made mistakes. He was quite cavalier in identifying isolated females to genus and species. We know now that this is a very difficult proposition and currently have a male based taxonomy for the Luciolinae in particular (Ballantyne et al. 2019). And sometimes his references to the same (named) species in different publications seem to deal with different species (and may well do).