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Joao Maria Franco De Camargo (Anhembi, SP, 20 JUNE 1941--Ribeirao Preto, SP, 7 September 2009).

The entire bee community has lost a deep resource of knowledge with the passing of Joao Camargo. Following brief health complications, Camargo passed away in Ribeirao Preto, Sao Paulo, Brazil, at the age of only 68. Camargo's research on stingless bees, which he studied for nearly 50 years, provides an invaluable legacy to all students of social insect behavior and evolution. Camargo also enthusiastically pursued evidence for large-scale past events in tropical South America by examining the historical biogeography of stingless bees. His contribution to science through the study of stingless bees was thus broad and will continue to have an impact for years to come.

My contact with Camargo began in 2001, when I shipped Peruvian bees to specialists around the world for identification. Of the specialists I heard back from, Camargo stood out in particular. Not only had each of my hundreds of stingless bees on their return been carefully labeled and given a name (even if only a Camargo manuscript name for the new species), but all of the bees were identified and meticulously placed equidistance in straight lines. This impressed me greatly. Clearly this was a careful person with a deep knowledge and love of these bees. As a special service, Camargo also provided an identification sheet with all of the label data from my bees written down along with their identifications. In his later identifications for me, these lists became more interesting and included notes on how to distinguish certain species and distributional notations. No other specialist was that detailed in their study of my material, and no other specialist was able to put a name on so many bees. On my first personal meeting with Camargo in 2005, I praised the rigor with which he performed his taxonomic revisions and identifications, but Camargo merely replied that those were the necessary steps for him to achieve his ultimate goal of elucidating the biogeographical history of the Amazonian region of South America.

Upon entering science in 1961 as an illustrator for Brazilian geneticist, Warwick E. Kerr, Camargo had the opportunity to work with the leading social insect scientist in Brazil at the time. He was also responsible for bringing Camargo to the Amazon in 1963 (Kerr et al. 1967) where stingless bees appear to be more abundant than any other kind of bee, and this certainly provided the first base for his impressive collecting. Anyone who is familiar with Camargo's work and his laboratory will know that his stingless bee collection is extraordinarily important and better curated than most other such collections. During his many years of traveling, mainly throughout Brazil, Camargo amassed some 150,000 pinned Neotropical stingless bee specimens. More importantly, his specimens are associated with collected nest pieces from 800 nests, photographs of these nests, and original drawings from the field. In addition Camargo organized thousands of jars containing brood cells, workers, queens, and males from all of the nests he collected. This unique and exceptionally well curated collection of stingless bees, considered the best and largest for the group in the world, was the pride of Camargo and the foundation for all of his research.

Camargo made no compromises in the rigor of his research. He took the time and effort necessary to complete large and comprehensive contributions, including the artistic masterpiece on the nest architecture of Partamona (Camargo & Pedro 2003). The study of Partamona began much earlier and showcases the care Camargo took in compiling all the facts before publishing a study; the yellow species of the genus were the subject of Camargo's Master's thesis presented 25 years earlier under the supervision of Padre Jesus S. Moure at the Universidade Federal do Parana (published as Camargo 1980). The 2003 study was remarkable in integrating field observations with morphology, biogeography and behavior. Camargo himself often highlighted that research as an example of the importance of studying insects in the field in addition to museum studies. Partamona species are notoriously difficult to separate based on their external morphology alone. However, Camargo demonstrated that the nest architecture of each species often provided reliable characters for their separation and could be used as an extended morphological dataset to compensate for obscured characters in worn specimens or for characters too microscopic for the untrained eye. Of several earlier attempts to formulate a hypothesis on the historical biogeography of the Amazon Basin (e.g., Camargo & Moure 1994; Camargo & Moure 1996), the Partamona study included the best documented example, which delimited species ranges to specific regions and proposed areas of ancestral diversification.


Although Camargo published close to 90 scientific productions, much of Camargo's immense knowledge remains unpublished. Many taxonomic revisions were ongoing at the time of his death, and it will be up to future curators of the collection to continue research based on his valuable material. Dr. Silvia Pedro, who collaborated with Camargo for more than two decades, is currently the curator of the collection and completing their last joint manuscripts. I personally will miss Camargo's ideas and discussions. He was an exemplary scholar with a strong, albeit educated, opinion about most topics in the biological sciences, and always welcomed any discussion in his office sipping strong Brazilian coffee or over a typical Brazilian meal in one of his favorite churrascarias.--Claus Rasmussen, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Aarhus, Nv Munkegade 116, DK-8000 Arhus C Denmark,

Received 31 December 2009; accepted 25 January 2010


Camargo, J. M. F. 1980. O grupo Partamona (Partamona) testacea (Klug): suas especies, distribuicao e diferenciacao geografica (Meliponinae, Apidae). Acta Amazonica 10:1-175.

Camargo, J. M. F. and J. S. Moure. 1994. Meliponinae neotropicais: os generos Paratrigona Schwarz, 1938 e Aparatrigona Moure, 1951 (Hymenoptera, Apidae). Arquivos de Zoologia 32: 33-109.

Camargo, J. M. F. and J. S. Moure. 1996. Meliponini neotropicais: o genero Geotrigona Moure, 1943 (Apinae, Apidae, Hymenoptera), corn especial referencia a filogenia e biogeografia. Arquivos de Zoologia 33:95-161.

Camargo, J. M. F. and S. R. M. Pedro. 2003. Meliponini neotropicais: o genero Partamona Schwarz, 1939 (Hymenoptera, Apidae, Apinae)--bionomia e biogeografia. Revista Brasileira de Entomologia 47:311-372.

Kerr, W. E., S. F. Sakagami, R. Zucchi, V. Portugal-Araujo and J. M. F. Camargo. 1967. Observacoes sobre a arquitetura dos ninhos e comportamento de algumas especies de abelhas sem ferrao das vizinhacas de Manaus, Amazonas (Hymenoptera, Apoidea). Atas do Simposio Sobre a Biota Amazonica, Zoologia 5: 255-309.
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Publication:Entomologica Americana
Article Type:In memoriam
Geographic Code:3BRAZ
Date:Jan 1, 2010
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