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Tiny Beetle: Please Look After This Species

ESF Top 10 New Species of 2016

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  • Phytotelmatrichis osopaddington: beetle and pin
    Photo credit: Michael Darby

  • Phytotelmatrichis osopaddington: dorsal view
    Photo credit: Michael Darby

  • Phytotelmatrichis osopaddington: ventral view
    Photo credit: Michael Darby

  • Phytotelmatrichis osopaddington: in its habitat
    Photo credit: Michael Darby

About the Tiny Beetle

Name: Phytotelmatrichis osopaddington

Location: Peru

How it made the Top 10: This species owes its charming Latin name to Paddington Bear, a lovable character who became a classic in children's literature after he was introduced in 1958. As the story goes, he showed up one day in Paddington Station, London, with a sign that said, "Please look after this bear." Like him, the new beetle hails from Peru. The researchers hope the new species' name will draw attention to the threatened Andean spectacled bear that inspired the Paddington books. Nearly 25 of these tiny beetles could line up, head to tail, before they reached the one-inch mark on a yardstick. They have a peculiar way of life. A little-studied world of animals, from insects to frogs, make their homes in pools of water that accumulate in hollows of plants, such as tree holes and the leaf bases of bromeliads (tropical and subtropical plants with short stems and stiff, open spiny leaves); these water bodies are called phytotelmata. This species was discovered in such water, gathered in leaf rolls of a non-native, cultivated plant, sparking questions about its food, breeding and native hosts. This is a featherwing beetle, the family that includes the smallest known group of beetles and which is named for the distinctive shape of their wings. Most of them are found on the forest floor where they feed on decomposing materials. So far, the plants documented as hosts to the new species belong to the Zingiberales, an order of flowering plants that include ginger and banana among 2,000 others.

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Arthropoda

Class: Insecta

Order: Coleoptera

Family: Ptiliidae

Size: 1.03 to 1.06 mm

Etymology: The name honors the country of origin of Michael Bond's beloved children's literature character, Paddington Bear, who came from "darkest Peru," and is hoped by the authors to draw attention to the threatened Andean spectacled bear that was Bond's inspiration.

Type locality: Peru, Kosnipata Valley, Villa Carmen Biological Station, near Pilcopata

Holotype: University of San Marcos Museum of Natural History, Peru

More information: Michael Darby and Caroline S. Chaboo. 2015. Phytotelmatrichis, a new genus of Acrotrichinae (Coleoptera: Ptiliidae) associated with the phytotelmata of Zingiberales plants in Peru. Zootaxa 4052: 96-106

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