The first case of a Portuguese beetle living exclusively in groundwater

January 8, 2019, Pensoft Publishers
The newly discovered species Iberoporus pluto. Credit: Ignacio Ribera

A diving beetle demonstrating various adaptations to the life underground, including depigmentation and evolutionary loss of eyes, was discovered at the bottom of a clay pound in the cave Soprador do Carvalho, Portugal. The species turned out to be the very first in the whole order of beetles (Coleoptera) to be known exclusively from the underground waters of the country.

Despite not being able to find any other specimens during their study—save for the single female, the team of Dr. Ignacio Ribera, Institute of Evolutionary Biology (Spain) and Prof Ana Sofia P. S. Reboleira, University of Copenhagen (Denmark) identified the beetle as new to science, thanks to its unambiguous morphology in combination with molecular data.

Aptly named Iberoporus pluto in reference to the ruler of the underworld in Greek mythology Pluto, the species was recently described in the open-access journal ZooKeys.

With a uniformly pale orange body measuring 2.8 mm in length and 1.1 mm in its widest part, the beetle is larger than the rest species known in its genus, and its appendages are longer and more slender. While blindness and depigmentation are clear adaptation to life away from sunlight, the elongated limbs and antennae reflect poor swimming abilities needed in a subterranean habitat. Going for 4 km in horizontal direction, Soprador do Carvalho is the largest in the Dueça cave system, located in the north-eastern part of the Sicó karst area in central Portugal. In recent years, the cave is being explored for tourism.

"The knowledge of the subterranean fauna from Portugal has significantly increased over the last decade, with the description of a high number of obligate subterranean species (tripling their number) and the establishment of new biogeographic patterns," explain the authors of the study. "A high number of these are stygobiont (i.e. confined to groundwater), mostly from wells in the north of the country, where evapotranspiration is higher."

Profile view of the newly described species Iberoporus pluto. Credit: Ignacio Ribera
The Soprador do Carvalho cave (Portugal) is the type locality of the newly described species Iberoporus pluto. Credit: Ignacio Ribera

Explore further: The first cave-dwelling centipede from southern China

More information: Ignacio Ribera et al, The first stygobiont species of Coleoptera from Portugal, with a molecular phylogeny of the Siettitia group of genera (Dytiscidae, Hydroporinae, Hydroporini, Siettitiina), ZooKeys (2019). DOI: 10.3897/zookeys.813.29765

Related Stories

The first cave-dwelling centipede from southern China

November 13, 2018

Chinese scientists recorded the first cave-dwelling centipede known so far from southern China. To the amazement of the team, the specimens collected during a survey in the Gaofeng village, Guizhou Province, did not only ...

A kingdom of cave beetles found in Southern China

November 14, 2014

A team of scientists specializing in cave biodiversity from the South China Agricultural University (Guangzhou) unearthed a treasure trove of rare blind cave beetles. The description of seven new species of underground Trechinae ...

An extraordinary cave animal found in Eastern Turkmenistan

September 21, 2017

A remote cave in Eastern Turkmenistan was found to shelter a marvelous cave-adapted inhabitant that turned out to represent a species and genus new to science. This new troglodyte is the first of its order from Central Asia ...

Recommended for you

'Zebra' tribal bodypaint cuts fly bites 10-fold: study

January 16, 2019

Traditional white-striped bodypainting practiced by indigenous communities mimics zebra stripes to reduce the number of potentially harmful horsefly bites a person receives by up to 10-fold, according to new research published ...

Big genome found in tiny forest defoliator

January 15, 2019

The European gypsy moth (EGM) is perhaps the country's most famous invasive insect—a nonnative species accidentally introduced to North America in the 1860s when a few escaped from a breeding experiment in suburban Boston. ...

Why haven't cancer cells undergone genetic meltdowns?

January 15, 2019

Cancer first develops as a single cell going rogue, with mutations that trigger aggressive growth at all costs to the health of the organism. But if cancer cells were accumulating harmful mutations faster than they could ...

0 comments

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.