A bit of good luck: A new species of burying beetle from the Solomon Islands Archipelago

Jun 21, 2013
This image shows the new species, Nicrophorus efferens. Credit: Derek Sikes

Scientists discovered a new species of burying beetle, Nicrophorus efferens. Burying beetles are well known to most naturalists because of their large size, striking black and red colors, and interesting reproductive behaviors - they bury small vertebrate carcasses which their offspring eat in an underground crypt, guarded by both parents. The study was published in the open access journal Zookeys.

This new species, known from only 6 specimens collected in 1968, sat unrecognized as an undescribed species for over 40 years. "It was a bit of good luck that led to our realization these specimens belonged to an undescribed species. My student, Tonya, was visiting Hawaii for some R&R and decided to look over the burying beetles held by the Bishop Museum. Her PhD research was focused on the biogeography and evolution of a subgroup of these beetles and she identified these six as very interesting and possibly new. The discovery of new species in old collections is a common occurrence and one of the many reasons why museums like the Bishop play a vital role in helping us understand life on this planet.", commented Dr. Sikes, University of Alaska Museum.

The second author, Tonya Mousseau, added, "Without my background and training in the taxonomy of beetles, particularly the burying , this new species might never have been uncovered. This really reinforces the idea that classic training in taxonomy and systematics is absolutely necessary to discovering and understanding the biodiversity of earth."

As far as the authors of this new species know, no one has seen this species alive. "It's likely they bury small vertebrate , like their close relatives do, but if they have any different behaviors we'll have to wait for future studies to learn of them. "

Explore further: Early exposure to cat urine makes mice less likely to escape from cats

More information: The data underpinning the analyses reported in this paper are deposited at GBIF, the Global Biodiversity Information Facility: ipt.pensoft.net/ipt/resource.do?r=type_specimen_data_for_new_species_nicrophorus_efferens

Sikes DS, Mousseau T (2013) Description of Nicrophorus efferens, new species, from Bougainville Island (Coleoptera, Silphidae, Nicrophorinae). ZooKeys 83, doi: 10.3897/zookeys.311.5141

Related Stories

Recommended for you

The math of shark skin

23 hours ago

"Sharks are almost perfectly evolved animals. We can learn a lot from studying them," says Emory mathematician Alessandro Veneziani.

Seafaring spiders depend on their 'sails' and 'anchors'

Jul 03, 2015

Spiders travel across water like ships, using their legs as sails and their silk as an anchor, according to research published in the open access journal BMC Evolutionary Biology. The study helps explain how sp ...

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.