Beetles in the family Passalidae are one of the few groups of beetles that are subsocial — the adults actually care for their young and nest in decaying logs. Male and female adults pre-chew the wood and feed it to the larvae, which otherwise would not be able to digest it. They can even communicate audibly by rubbing their wings and their abdomens together — an act known as stridulation, which is often associated with crickets and other insects. Even the larvae are able to stridulate.
Five new passalid beetle species from South America were recently found and described in an article published in the Annals of the Entomological Society of America.
The new species were discovered by researchers from Colombia and Mexico during a phylogenetic analysis of the genera Passipassalus and Paxillus. They used specimens deposited in museums and institutions throughout Central and South America for their research.
The researches performed the analysis because few phylogenetic studies have been performed on passalid beetles.
According to Dr. Larry Jiménez Ferbans, the first author on the paper, “[Our] interest in the genera Passipassalus and Paxillus arose because they have several characters in the plesiomorphic state, and most of their species occupy a range that has been postulated as the ancestral distribution area of the New World passalids.”
The first new species the researchers identified, Passipassalus nukak, was collected in Colombia and is only the fourth known species of its genus. It was named after the Nunak people, an indigenous, nomadic tribe that occupies the area where the specimen was collected.
The second new species is Paxillus amati. This beetle was also collected in Colombia, and it is named after Germán Amat, a professor at the Universidad Nacional de Colombia, in recognition of his passion for Passalid beetles.
Paxillus inca, another new species, was originally found in Peru, and is named in honor of the Inca Empire.
The fourth new species discovered by the researchers, Paxillus martinezi, was originally collected in Bolivia. It is named in memory of Antonio Martínez, who studied beetles and was a friend of Pedro Reyes-Castillo, one of the co-authors.
The fifth and final new species described in the paper, Paxillus akatanga, is from Peru. The word akatanga means “beetle” in Quechua, the native language in the area where the beetle was collected.
Complete descriptions of the new species, as well as information on how the new species differ from each other and other species of these genera, can be found in the Annals article.
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