A Force Awakened and to Be Reckoned With

Dec 16, 2015

A Force Awakened and to Be Reckoned With

Dec 16, 2015

Moviegoers are anxious to see the long-awaited "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," which officially opens Dec. 18.

But the Linnaean Games are also a force to be reckoned with-- for those who study insect science or who want to study insect science.

The Entomological Society of America (ESA) today posted the video of the 2015 Championship Linnaean Games on YouTube. Access it at https://youtu.be/_hA05K0NET4 to see the lively competition between the University of California, Davis and the University of Florida.  UC Davis won the championship for the first time in the 32-year history of the ESA's Linnaean Games.

The event, a sort of "Insect Star Wars," took place at ESA's recent meeting in Minneapolis. What are the Linnaean Games? They are a fun, college-bowl type competition in which teams answer questions about insects and entomologists. The teams usually hold practice sessions throughout the year. 

The UC Davis championship team was comprised of Ralph Washington Jr.  and members Jessica Gillung, Brendon Boudinot and Ziad Khouri. All are graduate students in the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. They earlier won the Linnaean Games competition at the regional level: the Pacific Branch of ESA.

Washington is studying for his doctorate with major professors Steve Nadler and Brian Johnson, who respectively specialize in systematics and evolutionary biology of nematodes and the evolution, behavior, genetics, and health of honeybees; Boudinot with major professor Phil Ward, systematics and evolutionary biology of ants; and Jessica Gillung and Ziad Khouri with major professor Lynn Kimsey, who specializes in the biology and evolution of insects. Kimsey directs the Bohart Museum of Entomology.

Two members of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology faculty--Extension entomologist Larry Godfrey and Extension apiculturist Elina Niño--served as the team's advisors.

Here are some of the questions that the UC Davis team correctly answered:

Toss-Up Question: What is the smallest insect that is not a parasite or parasitoid?

Answer: Beetles in the family Ptiliidae.

Bonus Question: Some species of mosquitoes lay eggs that can undergo diapause or aestivation. Give at least three cues that trigger the aquatic eggs to hatch.

Answer: Temperature, immersion in water, concentration of ions or dissolved solutes.

Toss-Up Question: Chikungunya is an emerging vector-borne disease in the Americas. Chikungunya is derived from the African Language Makonde. What means Chikungunya in Makonde?

Answer: Bending up.

Toss-Up Question: A Gilson's gland can be found in what insect order?

Answer: Trichoptera

Toss-Up Question: Certain Chrysomelid larvae carry their feces as a defensive shield. To what subfamily do these beetles belong?

Answer: Cassidinae.

Bonus Question: The first lepidopteran sex pheromone identified was bombykol. What was the first dipteran sex pheromone identified? Give the trade or chemical name.

Answer: Muscalure, Z-9-Tricosene. It is also one of the chemicals released by bees during the waggle dance.

Toss-Up Question: What famous recessive gene was the first sex-linked mutation demonstrated in Drosophila by T.H. Morgan?

Answer: White

Bonus Question: Cecidomyiidae are known as the gall flies. What is unique about the species Mayetiola destructor, and what is its common name?

Answer: Mayetiola destructor is the Hessian Fly, a tremendous pest of wheat. It does not form galls.

Toss-Up Question: Nicrophorus americanus is listed under what legislative act?

Answer: The Endangered Species Act

Toss-Up Question: In what insect order would you find hemelytra?

Answer: The order Hemiptera.

Toss-Up Question: The subimago stage is characteristic of what insect order?

Answer: The order Ephemeroptera

Bonus Question: A 2006 Science article by Glenner et al. on the origin of insects summarized evidence that Hexapods are nothing more than land-dwelling crustaceans, which is to say that the former group Crustacea is paraphyletic with respect to the Hexapoda. What hierarchical name has been used to refer to this clade?

Answer: Pancrustacea

Toss-Up Question: What are the three primary conditions that define eusociality?

Answer: Cooperative brood care, overlapping generations, and reproductive division of labor

A total of 10 teams competed in the 2015 Linnaean Games:

  • Eastern Branch: Virginia Tech University and University of Maryland  
  • North Central Branch: Michigan State University and Purdue University 
  • Pacific Branch: UC Davis and Washington State University 
  • Southeastern Branch: University of Georgia and University of Florida  
  • Southwestern Branch: Oklahoma State University and Texas A&M

The UC Davis Linnaean Games Team won the championship--they're the stars--but congratulations to all! It's a honor to be selected on a team and an honor to win a spot at the regionals and advance to the nationals.