What was the arthropod?

Well, the weird insect I showed this morning is an evil trick perpetrated by its makers and spread by Matthew. Here’s the answer:

Apparently this specimen was really in the MCZ teaching collection, and was used on lab practical exams to flummox the students.

Odonates are dragonflies (head), diptera are flies (thorax), Hemiptera are “true bugs” (wings), and Hymenoptera are the ants, bees, and wasps (abdomen).



  1. Posted July 15, 2017 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

    That’s Awesome! Thank you! 😎

  2. Phil Rounds
    Posted July 15, 2017 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

    At least i got the thorax. :p

  3. Posted July 15, 2017 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

    That was hilarious; didn’t fool me for a second and I forwarded to a friend of mine who was a graduate student of entomology back in the 1970’s to find out if it was his creation. I have done the same combining lizard and turtle parts for herpetology practical exams.

  4. Stephen Barnard
    Posted July 15, 2017 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

    A dramatic example of saltation!

  5. Posted July 15, 2017 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    Photoshop pranksters eat your hearts out!

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted July 17, 2017 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

      Photoshop pranksters eat your hearts out!

      They can’t. They’ve glued their fingers together.

  6. Posted July 15, 2017 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

    Hemiptera for the wings.. of course! Something like the wings from a plant hopper, I suppose.

    • Posted July 15, 2017 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

      Yeah, I missed that one, and probably would have continued missing it, if I hadn’t given up. I tried cicada, but couldn’t make that fit.

  7. Gregory Kusnick
    Posted July 15, 2017 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

    Hemiptera are “true bugs”

    Unfortunately this doesn’t narrow it down much for people who don’t already know what Hemiptera are. I would have said Hemiptera are (usually) plant-sucking insects such as aphids or leafhoppers.

    (And apparently even entomologists are divided on what qualifies as a “true bug”; according to Wikipedia, some reserve that rubric for the Heteroptera.)

  8. Mark R.
    Posted July 15, 2017 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

    Cool…I’m glad I didn’t guess.

    • Diane G.
      Posted July 16, 2017 at 2:54 am | Permalink

      I’m was impressed that more than one commenter in the first post pronounced it an amalgamation.

      • Mark R.
        Posted July 16, 2017 at 10:23 pm | Permalink


  9. Ed Neubauer
    Posted July 15, 2017 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

    Excellent – Piltdown bug.

    • Diane G.
      Posted July 16, 2017 at 2:52 am | Permalink


  10. Doug
    Posted July 15, 2017 at 11:23 pm | Permalink

    Reminds me of a joke I heard when I was a kid. Some students glued parts of different insects together and presented it to Charles Darwin, asking him to identify it.

    He asked, “Did it hum when you caught it?”

    “Oh yes!” they lied.

    “Just as I thought!” said Darwin. “It’s a humbug.”

  11. Posted July 17, 2017 at 11:58 am | Permalink

    Are “whimsical” entries in lab exams a biology thing? I remember in the last biology course I did (General Bio I, in CEGEP) there was a *light bulb* in the station on the exam that (amongst other things) dealt with bulbs and corms.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted July 17, 2017 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

      Well, no exactly unique to biology exams. Our “teaching collection” had several examples of “fubarite” (from the BAS – British Antarctic Survey, no less!) and completely different examples appeared in the exam.
      “Fubarite” is a rock type you don’t find in many text books, being an acronym for “Fouled Up Beyond All Recognition -ite.” Typically applied to rocks that have been through several rounds of moderate P+T metamorphism, but retain a fine-grained structure though they’ve lost their original igneous or sedimentary structures. Everything is too fine-grained for student-grade microscopes to resolve in 30-micron slices (several grains are imprinted one over the other).
      The point of such “arcana” is for the student to recognise when they need to apply different tools. SEM (if you have it) ; ultra-thin or reflection sections ; geochemistry. It’s sort of like the Star Trek episode involving 1 small ship against 47 Klingon battle-cruisers – to know whe the tools given are not enough for the job. But you could still earn valid points by describing optical properties, textures, etc, even if unidentifiable. After all, our teaching text book (for microscopy) was “Introduction to the Rock-Forming Minerals” – a 1 volume distillation of a 6-volume series, which itself remained an “Introduction”.

      • Posted July 18, 2017 at 11:35 am | Permalink

        I can see the generalization – almost any discipline where “please identify this” is a thing one can have “???” type exercises.

        There are logic books which have exercises of this character:

        This argument is sound.
        This argument has false premises.
        Therefore this argument is valid.

        • Posted July 18, 2017 at 11:36 am | Permalink

          (with the global direction as being: sound? valid?)

    • Diane G.
      Posted July 18, 2017 at 3:54 am | Permalink

      In Chem 101 we had an exam in which we were given symbols for made-up elements–Ry, E, Ch, e.g., along with enough relative information for each–proton number, At.Wt, name of group, electron shell, etc., all of which would allow us to slot the false element symbols into the first few rows of a blank periodic table. (It wasn’t as straightforward as it sounds–many of the clues were relative to each other–“Ry has two more neutrons in its nucleus than Is, but fewer than Ty” e.g.; and we only had one or two bits of info per element.)

      If we got it correct the symbols, left to right and row by row, spelled out “Chemistry is more fun than partying.”

      (Some of us–ahem–were so involved with just determining the right arrangement that we didn’t even notice the sentence till it was pointed out when our tests were returned. Ch, E, M, Is, T, Ry….)

      • Posted July 18, 2017 at 11:34 am | Permalink

        I’ve always regarded it as a shame that one cannot spell “chemistry” or the like with the element symbols.

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