Archive for February, 2022

James Jepson working with Manchester Museum’s collection of Neuroptera. © The Manchester Museum.

The Manchester Museum welcomes all kinds of visitors: art and design students, members of local natural history organisations, school and college students, family groups, etc. Yet, about half of our visitors are researchers working on many interesting, often inter-disciplinary projects. For instance, Dr James Jepson (on photo) is a palaeontologist from the University of Manchester, looking at the evolution of insects, in addition to studying the evolution of lacewings and their allies (order Neuroptera). He is also involved in studying these insects in Cheshire and Lancashire and is responsible for the national recording scheme of these insects. Below is James’ brief report on what he does and how he uses the Manchester Museum’s insect collections.


I have the pleasure of regularly visiting the entomology collections at the Manchester Museum to gather data for three projects that I am currently undertaking. The first being part of my postdoctoral research on insect relationships and evolution. I am using the specimens in the collection to code morphological characters, which I will then use to create a phylogeny to show the relationships of extant and fossil insect orders. From this phylogeny, I will be able to investigate the evolution of insects throughout geological time, from their beginnings to the present day.

The second project relates to the British Isles Lacewing and Allies Recording Scheme. I have recently become the co-organizer of the scheme, which we relaunched earlier this year. The scheme takes in records of the orders Neuroptera (Lacewings, Waxflies, Antlions & Spongeflies), Raphidioptera (Snakeflies), Megaloptera (Alderflies) and Mecoptera (Scorpionflies & Snowfleas) found in England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland. If you want to know more about the scheme, and how you can contribute, please visit our website. At the museum, I am documenting the collection of British lacewings and allies in the collection for addition into the recording schemes database. Museum collections hold very important data not only on recently collected specimens but also on specimens collected in the past. These historical collections give us information on past distributions of species and can help us assess any changes that have happened over time.

The final project is looking at the museum’s collection of Neuropterida (Neuroptera, Raphidioptera, Megaloptera). In addition to the British specimens, I will also be looking at specimens from other countries, like India, Costa Rica, and others. I will be putting a name to the unidentified specimens and checking the identity of the others to take into account recent changes in neuropterid taxonomy. It is always an enjoyable experience visiting the collections at Manchester Museum; the staff are enthusiastic, knowledgeable, and always very helpful.

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