Saturday 11 January 2014

Two new species of Jewel Beetle from Central America.

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 the activity of their larvae, which are wood or leaf borers. 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 Zootaxa on 27 March 2013, Henry Hespenheide of the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of California, Los Angeles, describes two new species of Jewel Beetle from Panama and Costa Rica. Both new species are placed in the genus Callimicra, which is known from Mexico and Central America.

The first new species is named Callimicra timmonsae, in honour of Bess Spiva Timmons. The species is described from nine male specimens from Panama and Costa Rica, and one female specimen from Costa Rica. The males are 3.30–3.75 mm long, the female 4.40 mm. Both are brightly coloured with blue, iridescent green and black patterning.

Callimicra timmonsae, male specimen in dorsal view. Hespenheide (2013).

The second new species is named Callimicra prenai, in honour of Jens Prena, an entomologist and Weevil expert who collected the specimens from which the species is described. The species is described from one male and two female specimens, all from Costa Rica. The male is 4.2 mm long, the females 4.7 & 5.0 mm. Both are brightly coloured, with a black, green, gold and red pattern.

Callimicra prenai, female specimen in dorsal view. Hespenheide (2013).

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