Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Six new species of Jewel Beetle from Southeast Asia.

Jewel Beetles (Buprestidae) are wood-boring Insects with distinctive bright, metallic elytra (wing-cases). They have been used to make traditional Beetle-wing jewelry in parts of Asia and are prized by insect collectors for their bright colouration, but despite this they are not considered to be threatened by man, in fact they are widely held to be serious economic pests, since some species are capable of killing large trees through their activity. Their colours are not caused by pigmentation, but rather by physical iridescence; the microscopic structure of the cuticle preferentially reflects light at specific frequencies; this creates bright, distinctive colours that serve as a warning to predators, the Beetles will swarm when threatened and can deliver a painful bite. This structural colouration allows the Beetles to be preserved in the fossil record with their pigments intact (rare with pigment-based colouration), with colours preserved in Beetles as old as the Jurassic.

In a paper published in the journal ZooKeys on 8 November 2012, Eduard Jendek of the Ottawa Plant Laboratory of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and Maria Lourdes Chamorro of the Systematic Entomology Laboratory of the United States Department of Agriculture and the National Museum of Natural History, describe six new species of Jewel Beetle from Southeast Asia, discovered as part of a wider search for relatives of the Emerald Ash Borer, Agrilus planipennis, an Asian species that has proved to be a highly destructive invasive pest in North America.

The first new species is named Agrilus crepuscularis, from the Latin crepusculum, meaning twilight. It is a 10 mm, slender, wedge-shaped, purplish-green Beetle with large, protruding eyes. The species is described from a single male specimen discovered in the Endau Rompin State Park in Malaysia.

Agrilus crepuscularis in dorsal (top) and lateral (bottom) views. Jendek & Chamorro (2012).

The second new species is named Agrilus pseudolubopetri, meaning false-lubopetri, due to the male of the species' close resemblance to the males of the previously described Agrilus lubopetri. It is a 14-18 mm, slender, wedge-shaped, Beetle with large, non-protruding eyes. The males are greenish in colour, the females purple. The Beetles were found at a number of locations in Laos.

Agrilus pseudolubopetri, male (top) and female (bottom). Jendek & Chamorro (2012).

The third new species described is named Agrilus sapphirinus, due to its distinctive sapphire colouration. It is a 10.5 mm, slender, wedge-shaped Beetle with large, protruding eyes. The species is named from a single female specimen found in Louang Namtha Province in northern Laos.

Agrilus sapphirinus, in dorsal (top) and lateral (bottom) views. Jendek & Chamorro (2012).

The fourth new species is named Agrilus seramensis, after Seram Island in Indonesia, where the species was found living. The species is described from seven specimens, all female. It is a 8-11.5 mm, slender, wedge-shaped, green-and-yellow Beetle with large, protruding eyes.

Agrilus seramensisin dorsal (top) and lateral (bottom) views. Jendek & Chamorro (2012).

The fifth new species described is named Agrilus spineus, for the spines on the tips of its wing-cases. It is a 9 mm, robust, wedge-shaped green Beetle with large, protruding eyes, described from a single female specimen found in the Bako National Park in Sarawak State in Malaysian Borneo. 

Agrilus spineusin dorsal (top) and lateral (bottom) views. Jendek & Chamorro (2012).

The final new species described is named Agrilus tomentipennis, meaning 'wooly-hairs on the wingcase'. It is a 14.0-14.3 mm robust, wedge-shaped yellow-green Beetle with large, protruding eyes. The species is named from three female specimens found at different locations in Xieng Khouang Province in Laos.

Agrilus tomentipennisin dorsal view. Jendek & Chamorro (2012).


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