Monday, 23 July 2018

Markus karenae: A new species of Silinine Soldier Beetle from Russian Baltic Amber.

Soldier Beetles, Cantharidae, are an extremely diverse and widespread group of elongate, soft-bodied Beetles related to Click Beetles and Fireflies, found on every continent except Antarctica.. They get their name from the red colouration of one of the earliest species descried, which resembled the colour of the red jackets worn by British soldiers in the eighteenth century, rather than any particularly aggressive behaviour. They are most commonly found in forested environments, where they feed on leaf-dwelling invertebrates and pollen and nectar from flowers. Soldier Beetles have a fossil record dating back to the Early Cretaceous, though most fossil Soldier Beetles known are from post-Cretaceous deposits. The Silinae are a species rich and widespread subfamily of Soldier Beetles, that reach their maximum diversity in South Asia and South America. They are less common in temperate regions, though there are a few abundant species in Europe and Siberia. The earliest members of this subfamily date from the Eocene, where they have been found in Baltic Amber from Russia and sediments from Colorado.

In a paper published in the journal Zootaxa on 10 January 2018, Fabrizion Fanti of Piazze in Sienna, Italy, and Michael Pankowski of Rockville in Maryland, USA, describe a new species of Soldier Beetle from Russian Baltic Amber.

Baltic amber is the preserved resin of Eocene Coniferous Trees that formed huge forests covering much of Scandinavia and Northern Europe between about 56 and 34 million years ago. Since this amber floats, it is often found on beaches around the Baltic Sea, and sometimes further afield, making the precise dating of individual pieces difficult.

The new species is named Markus karenae, on honour of Mark and Karen Pankowski, the parents of Michael Pankowski. It is described from a single male specimen, from a piece of amber found in a quarry near Yantarny in Kalingrad Oblast (State), Russia. The specimen is 4.5 mm in length, with long antennae (3.0-3.5 mm), a rounded head and an oval body.

Markus karenae in Baltic amber. Scale bar is 1.0 mm. Fanti & Pankowski (2018).

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