The discovery of a new, bi-colored beetle species in the lowland rainforest of French Guiana just added a little pizzazz to the ranks of the Pseudomorphini tribe of beetles. With wing cases (elytra) that sport black spots against a rusty red background, the newcomer was dubbed Guyanemorpha spectabilis, or the spectacular Guyane false-form beetle, by entomologist Terry Erwin in the journal ZooKeys.
The new beetle is one of hundreds collected by The Entomological Society Antilles-Guyane as part of an ongoing effort to inventory the insect biodiversity in French Guiana’s protected areas. But unlike most of its unremarkably-colored kin, Guyanemorpha spectabilis is the first flashy pseudomorphine to show up in the Western Hemisphere.
Spectacular Guyane False-form beetle, a colorful new species found in French Guiana. Photo credit: Karolyn Darrow, Department of Entomology at the Smithsonian Institution.
“This surprising large and colorful pseudomorphine came as a shock to me, as all other species of the Tribe in the Western Hemisphere are quite dull brown, dark reddish, or blackish with no, or little, color contrast on the upper surface,” explains Erwin with the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. “In the world of entomology this new species can be only compared in its rare characteristics to the Olinguito, a new carnivore species which charmed the world and just recently described by Kris Helgen.”
In addition to its colorful attributes, the new species from French Guiana is also big by comparison to other beetles in the Western Hemisphere measuring a little more than 13 millimeters in body length and almost half as wide. Despite its size, researchers surmise that the beetles “are likely swift and agile runners as other species in the Tribe,” and note that the new species has long wings for successful flight.
Little else is known for certain about the spectacular Guyane false-form beetle. Based on studies of related genera found in South America the researchers suspect the new beetle lives in trees with ants or termites. Erwin notes that dual-colored duds would be an asset for beetles leading an arboreal lifestyle. “Most of the carabid beetles I work with (in Peru) are more colorful in the canopy than in the leaf litter beneath. The canopy is a cornucopia of colors – flowers, bracts, leaves of different hues – and therefore carabid beetles blend in; whereas in the leaf litter, brown is better,” he says.
To learn more about the beetle’s life cycle, Erwin says they need to find pregnant females and get them to lay their eggs in a lab. After the eggs hatch, they’ll know what the larvae look like and can then go searching for them in the habitats where the adults are found.
“At each step, you get more of the life cycle, or as we say, ‘way of life,’“ he adds.
But that may be easier said than done. “Insecticidal fogging gets the adults of these species,” says Erwin. “But only tearing apart arboreal Azteca ant nests while suspended in a tree will produce their larvae, and that is not for carabidologists faint of heart.”
- Erwin TL (2013) Beetles that live with ants (Coleoptera, Carabidae, Pseudomorphini): A remarkable new genus and species from Guyane (French Guiana), Guyanemorpha spectabilis gen. n., sp. n. ZooKeys 358: 11–23. doi: 10.3897/zookeys.358.6298
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