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The colours of species in genus Malthodes can vary a lot, not sure if we can confirm this as M. dispar from the photo alone - have you been able to key out the actual specimen?
Entomologist and biological recorder
No, I don't take specimens so have only the image to work from. I tried it as best I could against a draft Cantharidae key (v.3), not sure if that's the most up to date. The image is insufficient for me to distinguish the presence or absence of a complete lateral keel on the pronotum (couplet 4), hence no definitive ID.
I then examined all the couplets for features that the specimen shows in order to find a 'might be' to kick things off. With bright yellow apices on the elytra, black pronotum, and antennae with red/yellowish basal segments this would key straight to M. dispar if it had incomplete lateral keels. (A big if, I know; if it has complete lateral keels then things are rather more obscure.)
What's the point of a 'might be' arrived at in this manner? Well I was hoping one of the iSpot experts would recognise the jizz of the species to confirm or refute the offering. I've seen time and again experienced entomologists identify photos that amateurs like myself can't run through a dichotomous key because they know the full assemblage of features that will distinguish various species. (A kind of Bayesian keying based on experience.)
Apologies if that's not the way things are done, but I do like to attempt an ID! Perhaps I should have added a Malthodes 'sure as I can be' followed by a dispar 'might be'...
No need to apologise David, I wasn't suggesting that there was anything wrong with the observation and identification, just wondered whether you had been able to use a lens to look at things like the thorax keels.
I went through much the same keying process as you, and agree that M. dispar seems a very likely outcome, but I just don't know the range of variation in Malthodes well enough to be able to confirm it myself.
As you say, hopefully someone else will know the species well enough to be able to confirm it from the photo.
Thanks Martin, given yours and Mark's reponses I'm starting to think I may have been a little optimistic, but you don't know unless you try! I'll add the genus ID as a revision.
David, I would suggest that 'Malthodes - I'm as sure as I can be' would have been a better starting point. If someone feels sure it's Malthodes dispar and clicks 'I agree', you're still none the wiser - are they just agreeing that it might be M. dispar, or are they sure?
Incidentally, I also think 'Malthodes - I'm as sure as I can be' is an appropriate end point too. I note that you don't take specimens but could you bring yourself to take into captivity, photograph in the hand, down a microscope, etc, release once ID established?
Thanks Mark, I see your point, agreement does seem to mean different things to different people; even different things to the same people! Although I try to mean 'I'm sure' when I agree I couldn't swear I hadn't added a few agreements of the 'I'm as sure as you' kind...
I have no qualms about potting a specimen; indeed, I'm fully supportive of the need to take permanent specimens, I just think they should be taken by those who can make use of them. I'm a genuine amateur rather one whose knowledge actually makes them more of an unpaid professional. I feel lucky to get a dozen half-days in the field in a year and being a generalist I just try to photograph as many species as I can find (all by simple searching). When I saw this beetle I didn't even know the genus, only guessed the family, and so had no idea of the features necessary for ID. I'd either have to carry a rucksack full of references or attempt to capture a fair portion of what I see and make a return trip for releasing, all meaning less time on the hunt.
It's a slightly selfish pragmatism I guess. I'd love to be able to spend more time getting proper IDs on site, but being out in the field is a rare pleasure that I like to make the most of. I hope you understand!
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