Unknown species and larval stages of extremely long-legged beetles discovered by DNA test

Oct 18, 2011
The extremely long legs and cross-like elytral color patterns of Ancyronyx beetles remind of spiders. Credit: H. Freitag (2007)

The unknown larval stages and a new species of the curious Spider Water Beetles were described after their assignment by DNA sequences. These taxonomic works are groundwork for the development of water quality bioindicator systems in the tropics. This study of the AQUA Palawana biodiversity program in the Philippines was published in the journal ZooKeys.

The research program AQUA Palawana has been exploring the unique freshwater biodiversity of the Philippine Island and biosphere reserve of Palawan for more than a decade. Scientists from the Senckenberg Museum of Zoology Dresden and the Bavarian State Collections of Zoology in Munich have now described larvae and a new species of the curious Spider Beetles (Ancyronyx) from this biodiversity hotspot. Their study was realized in cooperation with the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development and the De La Salle University Manila.

The scientists conducting this study, Hendrik Freitag and Michael Balke, used mitochondrial DNA, which should be identical in all developmental stages in a species, to assign the previously unknown larval stages to adult imagines. This method was very useful because the outside appearance of immature and mature stages of holometabolous insects look completely different and would not allow an easy assignment to each other.

This is a Philippine Spider Water Beetle in frontal view. Credit: H. Freitag (2009)

The studied insects of the genus Ancyronyx have extremely long legs, often accompanied by an eye-catching cross-like elytral , so that they remind of spiders. In point of fact they are "Riffle Beetles" (Elmidae) that are able to breathe through a plastron, a microfilm of air around their body surface that is microscopically enlarged by setose structures. This enables them to remain permanently under water. Such are often highly sensitive to and are therefore greatly valued as bioindicators. The researchers aim at providing basic knowledge and identification tools for tropical species that are potentially useful as freshwater bioindicators.

One of newly described Philippine species, Ancyronyx punkti – named after the German environmental NGO punkt e.V. – was recently chosen by BIOnet International for a campaign highlighting the relevance of taxonomy to society which was presented at the tenth COP meeting of the Convention on Biological Diversity in Nagoya, Japan 2010.

A typical habitat of spider water beetles in undisturbed mountain rivers of Palawan Island. Credit: H. Freitag (2008)

The new discoveries from the Philippines lead to the assumption that the region is the actual diversity centre of the genus. By now, ten of the 18 described are known solely from the Philippines, of which most are endemic to the country or even to single islands.

Explore further: A molecular compass for bird navigation

More information: Freitag H, Balke M (2011) Larvae and a new species of Ancyronyx Erichson, 1847 (Insecta, Coleoptera, Elmidae) from Palawan, Philippines, using DNA sequences for the assignment of the developmental stages. ZooKeys 136: 47-82. doi: 10.3897/zookeys.136.1914

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

3 new monitor lizards from the Philippines identified

May 17, 2010

German scientist Andre Koch from the Zoological Research Museum Alexander Koenig in Bonn together with his supervisor Dr. Wolfgang Boehme and another colleague have described two new monitor lizard species and one new subspecies ...

Seven new mice species found in Philippines

Jun 15, 2011

Seven new species of mice have been found by local and US scientists in the mountains of the Philippines, the government's environment department said Wednesday.

DNA reveals 7 new mice species

Jul 07, 2011

After living incognito for millions of years in a remote area of a forested mountain range in the Philippines, seven newfound species of mice owe their recent discovery to DNA evidence and the Florida State ...

Seven new species of mammals discovered on Luzon

Jun 20, 2011

A group of American and Filipino biologists have discovered seven previously unknown species of mammals in the Philippines, increasing the number of native mammals known from Luzon Island (excluding bats) from 42 to 49 (17 ...

Recommended for you

China's latest survey finds increase in wild giant pandas

12 hours ago

(AP)—Wild giant pandas in China are doing well. According to a census by China's State Forestry Administration, the panda population has grown by 268 to a total of 1,864 since the last survey ending in ...

A molecular compass for bird navigation

Feb 27, 2015

Each year, the Arctic Tern travels over 40,000 miles, migrating nearly from pole to pole and back again. Other birds make similar (though shorter) journeys in search of warmer climes. How do these birds manage ...

100,000 bird samples online

Feb 27, 2015

The Natural History Museum (NHM) in Oslo has a bird collection of international size. It is now available online.

New genetic technologies offer hope for white rhino

Feb 27, 2015

With support from the Seaver Institute, geneticists at San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research are taking the initial steps in an effort to use cryopreserved cells to bring back the northern white rhino from the ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.