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Tiny Beetle: Please Look After This Species ESF Top 10 New Species of 2016

From the Author...

The new Paddington beetle was discovered in my intense survey of beetle diversity along a steep elevational transect in the Kosñipata Valley in the southeastern part of the Peruvian  Amazon. The valley ranges from 200 m to 4,000 m (650 to 13,000 feet), and is home to diverse, pristine forest from lowland rainforests to mid-elevation rainforests. It is a super-rich biotic zone where the Andean fauna and flora mix with Amazon biodiversity, and cloud forests fade at the tree line into Andean grasslands. This extraordinary habitat and forest diversity explains why this area, including Manu National Park, is among the top five most biodiverse spots on Earth. Biodiversity documentation has assessed the big animals and plants to date, but it is the little things that account for the bulk of unknown biodiversity. 

For insects, assessing biodiversity in cryptic habitats will greatly increase the number of species for this area. The new species in this new genus was found in our sampling of such cryptic habitats. In this case, we looked in the leaves and flowers of Zingiberales plants (e.g. bananas, ginger and turmeric). They are sold as houseplants because of their large tropical leaves and spectacular flowers. These leaves and flowers offer habitat for many small arthropods; co-author Michael Darby believes we have collected over 50 new species of the world’s tiniest beetle group, Ptiliidae, just from these plants. 

In my annual field classes in Peru, I take undergraduate students from the University of Kansas and elsewhere out for their first fieldwork and, often, their first experience abroad.  It is exciting that undergraduates can play a crucial role in biodiversity discovery and documentation.

The undergraduate students who collected the new Paddington species are from the University of Kansas and one from Wesleyan University, Connecticut.  They are Alex Lamb, Hannah Boyd, Haley Fetters-Crouch, Sarah Hirschey and Paige Miller.

Peruvian forests are facing many threats — gold mining, logging, habitat transformation, cultivations of coca (for cocaine), cocoa (for chocolate) and oil palm, along with climate change. My partner organization, the NGO Amazon Conservation Association, manages forests at its field stations bordering Manu National Park. Naming the beetle after the vulnerable Andean spectacled bear which lives here can help educate the public about the vital role of both big animals and tiny creatures in biodiversity conservation, environmental health and our own human health.

— Caroline Chaboo

About the Tiny Beetle

Name: Phytotelmatrichis osopaddington

Tiny Beetle next to pin

Location: Peru

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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