Thursday 18 April 2019

Lophorrhinides muellerae: A new species of Flower Chafer from Tanzania.

Scarab Beetles, Scarabeidae, are a large and diverse group, containing about 30 000 known species from around the world. These Beetles are typically large and robust, and often with a metallic colouration. Many Scarab Beetles are excellent diggers, and many of these digging Scarabs share a habit of burying their eggs with a supply of dung to feed their young, gaining them the name Dung Beetles, though others lay their eggs on carrion, decaying plant matter, or in some cases living plants. Flower Chafers, Cetoniinae, are Scarab Beetles that feed as adults on the nectar and pollen of flowers. The larval habits of this group are variable, with some species predating the larvae of other Insects and others feeding on Bird Droppings - the later being particularly true of Southern African species. 

In a paper published in the journal ZooKeys on 26 March 2019, Renzo Perissinotto of the School of Environmental Sciences at Nelson Mandela University, Lynette Clennell of the Macau Anglican College, and Gerhard Beinhundner of Euerbach in Germany, describe a new species of Flower Chafer from the Southern Highlands of Tanzania.

The new species is named Lophorrhinides muellerae, where ‘Lophorrhinides’ means ‘similar to Lophorrhina’ a genus which it closely resembles and is thought to be closely related to, and ‘muellerae’ honours Ruth Müller of the Ditsong Museum of Natural History, who found the male specimen of the new species in the museum’s collection and realised it was probably a new species. The species is described from two specimens, the male from the collection of the Ditsong Museum, and a female from the private collection of Gerhard Beinhundner. The female closely resembles that of Lophorrhina donckieri, and was originally misidentified as such. The male, however, is quite unlike that of any member of the genus Lophorrhina, which tend to be strongly sexually dimorphic (i.e. the sexes are very different), and resembles the female quite strongly.

Male Lophorrhinides muellerae in dorsal view. Perissinotto et al. (2019). 

The male specimen is 17.9 mm in length and 9.8 mm in width, black and orange in colour with a dull lustre and covered in hairs. The female is slightly larger, at 18.0 mm long and 9.5 mm wide, and similar in colour but shiny and largely hairless. The two specimens are presumed to be the same species due to their similarity in appearance, though this has not been tested by genetic analysis, and the two specimens were collected in different places at different times; the female in the Rungwe Mountains in February 2006, and the male at Manow in ‘Deutsch Ost-Afrika’ at an unknown time (although the name Deutsch Ost-Afrika implies it was collected before 1914, as this German colony was lost during the First World War, becoming first British Tanganyika and then the Republic of Tanzania.

Female Lophorrhinides muellerae in dorsal view. Perissinotto et al. (2019).

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