Dung beetle named after Darwin

Sep 22, 2009
Illustration of the dung beetle named Canthidium darwini, discovered on a Museum-led expedition to Costa Rica

A dung beetle from Costa Rica has been named after Charles Darwin and the Darwin Initiative. It was discovered during a Natural History Museum led expedition.

The beetle, named Canthidium (Eucanthidium) darwini, was discovered in a remote and unexplored UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Talamanca Mountains as part of a Natural History Museum led project.

It was found on one of 7 expeditions to the area that were funded by the UK government‘s Darwin Initiative, which aims to assist biodiversity conservation in some of the world’s poorest countries.

The naming is timely, as this year has seen many anniversaries of the great biologist; the 150th year since his ground-breaking publication On the Origin of Species, the 200th year since Darwin’s birth and nationwide events are taking place in 2008-2009 as part of Darwin200.

The expeditions were led jointly by the Natural History Museum, INBio, and Panama's national authority for the environment ANAM. The aim was to produce tools for the conservation of an important area of the world's biodiversity.

Museum biodiversity expert Alex Monro led the that discovered the beetle. ‘These expeditions were very tough,’ says Monro. ‘This particular one lasted 3 weeks, camping and hiking and using baited traps set along transect lines (sample points).’

There are about 180 dung beetle species in and Canthidium darwini is one of 68 species collected as part of the project, 2 of which are new to science.

‘At 4mm in length this beetle is relatively small,’ says Monro. ‘Angel Solís, expert for this group of beetles in Costa Rica and Panama, says that it appears to be most closely related to a species the other side of the mountain on the Pacific coast.’

During the 7 trips, more than 30 previously unknown species of beetle, amphibian and plant were discovered.

Dung beetles have a crucial role in nature as they consume waste such as dung and decaying flesh (carrion). They bury the waste in the ground and so contribute to soil fertility and structure.

Since they feed on mammal dung, bird droppings and their carcasses, and are relatively specialised in the range of food that they consume, dung beetle diversity can be an indicator of the density and diversity of mammals and birds in the area.

Provided by American Museum of Natural History (news : web)

Explore further: Chimpanzees prefer firm, stable beds

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Beetle dung helps forests recover from fire

Nov 29, 2007

Armed with a pair of tweezers and a handful of beetle droppings, University of Alberta forestry graduate Tyler Cobb has discovered why the bug-sized dung is so important to areas ravaged by fire.

Beetle species rediscovered in Britain

Mar 19, 2007

The endangered short-necked oil beetle, long thought gone from Britain, was rediscovered recently by an entomologist at a site in southern county of Devon.

Recommended for you

Biologists help solve fungi mysteries

4 hours ago

(Phys.org) —A new genetic analysis revealing the previously unknown biodiversity and distribution of thousands of fungi in North America might also reveal a previously underappreciated contributor to climate ...

More vets turn to prosthetics to help legless pets

7 hours ago

A 9-month-old boxer pup named Duncan barreled down a beach in Oregon, running full tilt on soft sand into YouTube history and showing more than 4 million viewers that he can revel in a good romp despite lacking ...

Chimpanzees prefer firm, stable beds

17 hours ago

Chimpanzees may select a certain type of wood, Ugandan Ironwood, over other options for its firm, stable, and resilient properties to make their bed, according to a study published April 16, 2014 in the open-access ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Biologists help solve fungi mysteries

(Phys.org) —A new genetic analysis revealing the previously unknown biodiversity and distribution of thousands of fungi in North America might also reveal a previously underappreciated contributor to climate ...

Cosmologists weigh cosmic filaments and voids

(Phys.org) —Cosmologists have established that much of the stuff of the universe is made of dark matter, a mysterious, invisible substance that can't be directly detected but which exerts a gravitational ...