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New Checklist of Guiana Shield Highlights Cockroach Diversity in the Americas

Cockroaches that mimic beetles, semi-aquatic cockroaches, and cockroaches that live only in forest canopies …

These are only a few of the 234 cockroach species listed as the known fauna of the Guiana Shield in a new paper published in the journal ZooKeys.

It turns out that the Guiana Shield — a large region in northeast South America which spans the countries of Guyana, Suriname, French Guiana, and parts of Colombia, Venezuela, and Brazil — may be one of the world’s hotspots of biodiversity for cockroaches. According to the authors of the paper, only Rio De Janiero is known to be a region of higher diversity in the Americas.

“Sampling is still severely lacking,” the authors wrote. “What little sampling has been done in the Guianas was mostly completed before 1960.”

As with most insects, what we don’t know about these animals is far greater than what we do know. The 234 known species may be less than half of the total number of cockroach species from this region.

In order to better understand the region’s cockroach diversity, the researchers collected cockroaches by hand and with pitfall traps baited with beer. Their captured specimens include eight that were not previously known to exist in the region.

Of these eight new records, one is the new species Xestoblatta berenbaumae, one is an unknown type of Eublaberus, and another is an unknown species of Calhypnorna, which is the only member of its genus known from the entire Guiana Shield.

The Xestoblatta berenbaumae was named after Dr. May Berenbaum, the 2015 Vice President of the Entomological Society of America, author of many popular books and articles, and winner of too many awards to be listed here. X. berenbaumae adults are between 15-19 millimeters in body length, and the heads of the females are slightly darker than those of the males.

“The morphology of modified styles on the subgenital plate is the most useful trait for discerning this species with other Xestoblatta,” the authors wrote.

Those who are interested in the full description of X. berenbaumae and the others in the checklist can read the full, open-access article:

The Blattodea s.s. (Insecta, Dictyoptera) of the Guiana Shield


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