Science

The areas of zoology that interest me the most are animal diversity in general and anything to do with arthropods, particularly insects. My scholarly efforts have focused on:

Communicating animal diversity
The vertebrates account for a tiny proportion of animal diversity. The animals are staggeringly varied, but underpinning this veritable riot of forms is a small number of evolutionary ‘innovations’. It is my goal to give students in particular a more complete representation of what the animals actually are.

Ecology and conservation biology of beetles
I’ve always had a soft spot for beetles. Their diversity in form and lifestyle is unmatched by any other group of animal. Any terrestrial habitat supports a huge variety of beetle species and there is still a huge amount to learn about all of them. All beetles interest me, but since my PhD I have spent a lot of time looking at the genus Cryptocephalus – a very interesting group of leaf beetles. Not only are they extremely diverse (c. 1,500 species worldwide), but they also exhibit some unusual traits (case-bearing larvae) and typically have very specific habitat requirements.

Tropical arthropod diversity
For anyone with an interest in the natural world the humid tropics are unparalleled. Tropical forests are brimming with life, but we have only barely scratched the surface of understanding what lives in these places and how they interact. In documenting the arthropod life I find during expeditions I hope to contribute to our knowledge of these areas.

Ecology of solitary wasps
In recent years I’ve become increasingly interested by solitary, predatory wasps, a considerable variety of which can be found in just about any terrestrial habitat. With incredible hunting prowess the female wasps catch a variety of prey to stock their nests with, but the detailed ecology of most species is very poorly known. Studying the ecology of these insects, particularly the huge effort they invest in constructing and stocking their nests, requires no special equipment, yet reveals incredible insights into their lives.

Molecular tools and ecological observations to inform taxonomy
The ability to read DNA has transformed the way we make sense of biodiversity. Morphological taxonomy is still very useful, but DNA and ecological data allow us to reveal the true diversity of groups of animals where different species can look almost identical, even to the trained eye. These morphological similarities can obscure a huge variety of subtle ecological differences.

Interactions between arthropod assemblages and agricultural landscapes
As the human population grows the pressure on the land to produce more food intensifies. To achieve this sustainably we need to understand the benefits that natural assemblages of arthropods can bring to crop production. Encouraging the natural enemies of crop pests is part of achieving this.

Scientific publications/reports/books

  • Piper R (2016) Cryptocephalus nitidulus Fabricius (Chrysomelidae) larvae and parasitism. The Coleopterist 25(2):78. PDF
  • Piper R (2016) Offspring or phoronts? An alternative interpretation of the
    “kite-runner” fossil. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA, 10.1073/pnas.1605909113. PDF
  • Mellings J and Piper R (2015). Sitaris muralis (Forster) (Meloidae) in Dorset. The Coleopterist;24(3):186-187. PDF
  • Quicke D and Piper R. Description of a new species of Shelfordia (Hymenoptera: Braconidae) from northern Myanmar (in prep).
  • Piper R, Lewis Z and Compton SG (2014). Life in the leaf-litter: a novel metal detector technique to investigate the over-wintering survival of rare, case-bearing beetle larvae. J Insect Conserv;18(6):1163-1169. PDF
  • Liu X, Winterton S, Wu C, Piper R and Ohl M (2014). A new genus of mantidflies discovered in the Oriental region, with a higher-level phylogeny of Mantispidae (Neuroptera) using DNA sequences and morphology. Syst Entomol, 40(1):183-206. PDF
  • Piper R (2013). Animal Earth: The Amazing Diversity of Living Creatures. Thames and Hudson, London.
  • Helgen K, Lunde D, Edmison N, Piper R, Wemmer C and Moses S (2013). Preliminary report of results from the 2013 BBC-Smithsonian biodiversity surveys in Myanmar.
  • Piper RW (2013) Cryptocephalus decemmaculatus at Wybunbury Moss, Cheshire. Natural England Research reports.
  • Piper RW and Compton SG (2013). How limited is dispersal in the rare beetle, Cryptocephalus decemmaculatus (Chrysomelidae, Cryptocephalinae)? J Insect Conserv;17(6):1229-1235. PDF
  • Piper RW (2012). Nesting ecology of the solitary wasp, Ancistrocerus nigricornis. Entomol Rec J Var;124:29-33.
  • Piper RW and Compton SG (2010). Population size and dispersal ability of Cryptocephalus nitidulus (Linnaeus, 1758) (Col.: Chrysomelidae). Entomol Rec J Var;122:257-264. PDF
  • Piper RW (2010). Enemies of figwort weevils Cionus sp. (Col.: Curculionidae). Entomol Rec J Var;122(2):84-86.
  • Piper RW (2007). Nest building and prey stocking in Crossocerus megacephalus (Rossius) (Hym.: Sphecidae). Entomol Rec J Var;119(2):58.
  • Barari H, Ferguson AW, Piper RW, Smith E, Quicke DLJ and Williams IH (2005). The separation of two hymenopteran parasitoids, Tersilochus obscurator and Tersilochus microgaster (Ichneumonidae), of stem-mining pests of winter oilseed rape using DNA, morphometric and ecological data. Bull Entomol Res;95(4):299-307.
  • Piper RW and Williams IH (2004) Incidence and feeding activity of epigeic, predatory invertebrates within winter oilseed rape in the UK with comparisons between integrated and conventional crop management. IOBC-WPRS Bull.;27(10):283-290.
  • Piper RW and Compton SG (2004) Notes on the UK distribution, ecology and captive rearing of Cryptocephalus nitidulus (L.) (Col., Chrysomelidae). Entomol Mon Mag:140:267-71.
  • Burgess PJ, Incoll LD, Hart BJ, Beaton A, Piper RW, Seymour I, Reynolds FH, Wright C, Pilbeam DJ and Graves AR (2003). The impact of silvoarable agroforestry with poplar on farm profitability and biological diversity. Final report to DEFRA AF0105, 73.
  • Piper RW (2003) A novel technique for the individual marking of smaller insects. Entomol Exp Appl;106(2):155. PDF
  • Piper RW and Compton SG (2003) Cryptocephalus sub-populations. Geographically close but genetically far. Divers Distrib;9:29-42. PDF
  • Piper RW (2002). Conservation biology of the genus Cryptocephalus and other threatened UK beetles. PhD thesis, School of Biology, University of Leeds. PDF
  • Piper RW and Hodge PJ (2002) The rare species of UK Cryptocephalus. English Nature research reports, No. 469. English Nature, Peterborough, UK.
  • Piper RW and Hodge PJ (2002) Known Cryptocephalus coryli, C. decemmaculatus and C. nitidulus sites. Their history, characteristics and recommendations for management. English Nature research reports, No. 468. English Nature, Peterborough, UK.
  • Piper RW (2002) The UK distribution, ecology and captive rearing of Cryptocephalus decemmaculatus (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae). Entomol Rec J Var;114:123-127. PDF
  • Piper RW and Compton SG (2002) A novel technique for the relocation of concealed insects. Ecol Entomol;27:251-253. PDF
  • Piper RW, Compton SG, Rasplus J-Y and Piry S (2001) The species status of Cathormiocerus britannicus. An endemic, endangered weevil. Biol Cons;101:9-13. PDF