Earlier this year, a 20-million-year-old pygmy locust found in amber was named after Sir David Attenborough.
Now the British naturalist and filmmaker has been honored once again, this time with a new species of beetle that has been named in his honor — Trigonopterus attenboroughi.
Researchers discovered 98 new species of the beetle genus Trigonopterus on Java, Bali, and other Indonesian islands. The new species, including T. attenboroughi, can be viewed in the open-access journal ZooKeys.
The tropical islands of Java, Bali, and Lombok are popular tourist destinations, but remnants of their original rainforests still harbor a largely unexplored insect fauna. Museum scientists from Germany and from the Indonesian Research Center of Biology went to the woods and searched the leaf litter for a specific group of beetles, the weevil genus Trigonopterus. Out of 99 species collected, 98 had never been seen by a human eye before.
“It was surprising that in Bali, even areas regularly visited by package tours can be the home of unknown species,” said co-authors Alexander Riedel and Michael Balke.
“Many of these species are restricted to small areas; sometimes they are found only in a single locality,” said Yayuk R. Suhardjono, another co-author. “These beetles are wingless and usually stay for millions of years where they are. This makes them extremely vulnerable to changes of their habitat.”
To describe all of the new species using traditional approaches would have taken a lifetime, but there was no time to waste. Java, Bali, and Lombok are densely populated, so natural forests are easily converted to agriculture if the public is unaware of their value. Instead, a portion of DNA from each weevil species was sequenced, which helped to sort out and diagnose species efficiently. In addition, high-resolution photographs were taken and uploaded to the Species ID website, along with short scientific descriptions.
It was a challenge for the scientists to find suitable names for so many new species. In the end, they decided to base some of the names on their respective localities, while others were named according to the Indonesian numbers one to twelve. However, their easiest choice was to name one for Sir David Attenborough in recognition of his outstanding documentaries on natural history. They hope that the documentation of nature’s beauty will eventually lead its protection.
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