New species of fascinating opportunistic shelter using leaf beetles

Sep 27, 2013
This image shows a leaf-hole shelter of the new species Orthaltica terminalia on the leaf of a kindal tree Terminalia paniculata, with feeding trenches radiating from the leaf-hole shelter. Credit: Kaniyarikkal Divakaran Prathapan

Many animals construct homes or shelters to escape from biological and physical hostilities. Birds, spiders, termites, ants, bees and wasps are the most famous animal architects. As shelter construction requires considerable investment of resources and time, builders tend to minimize the cost of building while maximizing the benefits.

Builders are rather uncommon among adult leaf beetles though young ones of certain species use own feces to construct a defensive shield. Two closely related, hitherto of tiny southern Indian leaf beetles, only slightly larger than the size of a pin-head, and their clever way of using and modifying low cost shelters, is described in the open access journal ZooKeys. These beetles make use of holes pre-formed by larger leaf feeding beetles on the leaves of their host trees thus reducing cost of the shelter just like some birds that nest in existing produced by primary cavity nesters, such as .

This image shows triangular-shaped artificial leaf-holes on Syzygium travancoricum plant, used as shelter by the newly found Orthaltica syzygium with feeding trenches radiating from holes. Credit: Kaniyarikkal Divakaran Prathapan

The beetles also use artificially made holes to construct hideouts called "leaf hole shelters". As the shape and size of the hole were not exactly in tune with the requirements of the beetle, they resized the hole by partitioning with a wall constructed with own fecal pellets. Use of feces by adult leaf beetles for construction of shelters is being described for the first time, with these two new southern Indian species namely Orthaltica eugenia and Orthaltica terminalia. The beetles are named after their , common in jungles of the Western Ghats Mountains, which is a globally recognized hot spot of biodiversity.

This image shows Orthaltica terminalia, one of the two newly discovered species. Credit: Alexander S. Konstantinov


Explore further: Conservation and immunology of wild seabirds: Vaccinating two birds with one shot

More information: Prathapan KD, Konstantinov AS, Shameem KM, Balan AP (2013) First record of leaf-hole shelters used and modified by leaf beetles (Coleoptera, Chrysomelidae), with descriptions of two new Orthaltica Crotch species from southern India. ZooKeys 336: 47-59. DOI: 10.3897/zookeys.336.5435

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

There's a new bug in town

Jul 30, 2013

There's a new bug in town, but entomologists stress its arrival is good news for El Paso residents and the environment.

Do beetles have maternal instincts?

Sep 26, 2013

Hidden in the thick foliage of tropical forests a subfamily of colorful beetles hides the secrets of the earliest stages of social behavior, showing explicit signs of maternal instincts and care. An international ...

Ambrosia beetles have highly socialized systems

Oct 04, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Ambrosia beetles have long eluded scientists when it comes to being able to study their natural social structure. These beetles live deep within the solid wood of trees and when you disturb ...

Tahiti: A very hot biodiversity hot spot in the Pacific

Aug 09, 2013

A collaborative biological survey that focused on the insects of French Polynesia has resulted in the discovery of over 100 tiny predatory beetle species in Tahiti, 28 of these species newly described in ...

Recommended for you

Nature offers video of 10 cutest animals of 2014

19 hours ago

(Phys.org)—The journal Nature has released a video that ventures a bit from its traditional strictly-science approach to technical journalism—it's all about the cutest animal stories of the past year ( ...

Big data and the science of the Christmas tree

22 hours ago

Often called the "Cadillac of Christmas trees," the Fraser Fir has everything a good Christmas tree should have: an even triangular shape, a sweet piney fragrance, and soft needles that (mostly) stay attached ...

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.