by Jane Hyland
Teamwork between scientists studying insects (entomologists) and illustrators is an important part of museum-based scientific research. This important collaborative aspect between the scientist and the illustrator is instrumental in identifying and clarifying important characteristics of the specimen for identification purposes. Scientific illustration allows observers to see and study certain tiny features that are barely visible under the microscope, but which the scientist is familiar.
By studying and illustrating distinctive morphological features of specimens, the illustrator can choose to emphasize or ignore entirely different characters, increasing the visibility of important structures for accurate identification. For example, the placement of tiny sensory hairs (setae) on the head of this common moth caterpillar (inchworm) may be emphasized by the illustrator as important for identifying this species.
Jane Hyland is a Scientific Preparator at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. Museum employees are encouraged to blog about their unique experiences and knowledge gained from working at the museum.