Sunday 17 June 2012

New species of Bess Beetle from Guatemala.

Bess Beetles (Passaldae) are largish (2-4 cm) wood-eating beetles best known from North America. They live in semi-social groups, with the grubs being reliant on the adults for food; the wood they consume needs to be processed by microbes in the Beetles' intestines, but this cannot be done on a single passage, nor chewed by the grubs. Thus the adults consume the wood initially, and both the adults and the larvae consume the feces of the adults, a form of behavior known as coprophagy. 

In a paper published in the journal Zootaxa on 17 May 2012, Enio Cano of the Universidad del Valle de Guatemala and the Museo de Historia Natural at the Escuela de Biología at the Universidad de San Carlos de Guatemala and Jack Schuster of the Universidad del Valle de Guatemala describe a new species of Bess Beetle from mid-altitude cloud forest in Quiché Department in Guatemala. 

The new species is placed in the genus Oileus, and given the specific name gasparilomi, after Gaspar Ilóm, a fictional character in a novel by Miguel Ángel Asturias; the Beetles were collected in an area known as the Mountains of Ilóm. The adult is a 35-42 mm black Beetle, the larvae was not found.

Oileus gasparilomi. (5) Lateral view of head and pronotum, (MFS) Median Frontal Structure, (ch) center horn, (mdb) mandible, (dt) dorsal tooth of mandible. (6) Dorsal view (7) Ventral view.  Cano & Schuster (2012).

Five species of Beetle in the genus Oileus have been previously described, four restricted to Mexico and one from across Central America from Mexico to Panama and into Columbia. Cano & Schuster suggest that the Beetles (and many other Insects) may be more widespread in Central America, where many countries suffered periods of political instability during the Cold War, which have prevented entomological sampling in many areas until quite recently.

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