Dr. Henry S. Dybas

W. Eugene Hall

Henry S. Dybas ( 1915-1981) is considered to be the most influential worker of Ptiliidae in the 20th-century, through advancing our understanding of featherwing beetle systematics and biology. Besides describing numerous new genera and species, Dybas initially brought to the forefront of ptiliid biology concepts of featherwing beetle reproduction and polymorphism, as well as evolutionary implications of being a 'small' organism. Dybas was a dedicated member of the Field Museum of Natural History, Division of Insects, and during his association with the museum amassed the largest ptiliid collection in the world, containing over 1 million specimens from practically every geographic region around the world. Dybas was also a leading authority on cicada (Hemiptera: Homoptera) ecology.

A quick review of Dybas' publications shows his range of interests when it came to studying Ptiliidae. This body of work includes: descriptions of new genera and species of Nanosellinae; a 'blind' genus of Ptiliidae occurring in South Africa caves; a fossil ptiliid found in Baltic amber; Bolivian ptiliids occurring in termite nests; presence of parthenogenetic reproduction within certain genera of Ptiliidae; possible evolutionary relationships of Ptiliidae and other members of the Staphylinoidea based on larval characters; occurrence of polymorphism within pterycines; co-evolution of spermatheca design and sperm morphology.

For an in-depth and personable biography on Henry Dybas, written by long-time colleague Rupert Wenzel, see 'Henry Dybas: A Eulogy . Field Museum of Natural History Bulletin, March 1987, pp. 22-25. '

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University of Arizona

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