Scientists discover four new jewel beetles
A two-man research team in the Czech Republic has found four new species of jewel beetles (Buprestidae). Presented in the journal ZooKeys, the study reveals how the genus Philanthaxia, which was first described by Deyrolle in 1864 with Philanthaxia curta and later revised by Czech scientist Svatopluk Bílý in 1997, is primarily Oriental in distribution except for a couple of species whose reach touches the Australasian region. Because of their discovery, the total number of species belonging to the genus Philanthaxia now stands at 65.
'All new species belong to the genus Philanthaxia,' explains co-author Oto Nakládal from the Department of Forest Protection and Game Management at the Czech University of Life Sciences Prague, who collaborated with lead author Dr Bílý, of the same university. 'Before the publication of this study, 61 species had been known from this genus. Currently, it comprises 65 species, with a primarily Southeast-Asian distribution, expect for 2 species extending to the Australasian region.'
Thailand is home to the new species P. Pseudoaenea and the Indonesian islands of Borneo, Lombok and Sumatra have the species P. jakli, P. chalcogenioides and P. lombokana. The duo points out that the biology of all these species is unknown, as are the host plants, because all specimens were collected from the locals.
They describe in their paper that P. Pseudoaenea belongs to the group of species with flat or impressed frons, wide scutellum and strongly toothed tarsal claws. Philanthaxia jakli is a member of the group of species with a similar frons and scutellum, simple tarsal claws and golden green dorsal colouration. Philanthaxia chalcogenoides resembles some species of the genus Chalcogenia (Anthaxiini) by the shape of the body, the colouration and a distinct elytral mirror effect. It differs from its congeners by the strange pronotal sculpture and by the conspicuous mirror effect along the elytral suture. Philanthaxia lombokana is part of the group of species with simple tarsal claws, wide depressed frons and wide scutellum.
The researchers also described sexual dimorphism of Philanthaxia iris, a species initially described on the basis of a single female from the Indonesian island of Java; male specimens had not been recorded at the time. But because a local collector had a specimen from Java, the team could also describe a male.
This family of beetles is named for their stunning, shiny colours and striking body. They are medium in size, ranging between 6.2 millimetres and 9.8 millimetres, with sub-elliptical and moderately convex shapes. The surfaces of their backs are black and bronze, or black and bronze with a violet tinge along their sides. The antennae and legs are black and violet, and the surface of their abdomen is bronze, while their ventral surface is black and violet.
Researchers around the globe are quick to note how inventories of biodiversity 'hotspots' like south-east Asia play a huge role because of the increasing rates of extinction, triggered by rapid changes to the natural habitats.
Many species are endangered or extinct without even becoming known to the scientific community, experts say.
'Mankind is not even able to evaluate the real losses associated with species extinction,' says Dr Nakládal, 'because every individual species is, as a rule, a result of millions of years of evolution and adaptation and has therefore its unique role in the ecosystems.'