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Treasure chest of new insects discovered on the island



  Trigonopterus yoda

Image copyright
Alexander Riedel

Caption

Trigonopterus yoda: A shiny green beetle, named after the Stars Wars character

On an Indonesian island, more than a hundred insect species have been discovered that are new to science.

The small beetles found in remote rainforests seem to have been overlooked for decades.

All 1

03 belong to the same group – weevils.

Scientists named the creatures for Star Wars and Asterix figures, including Yoda, a green shiny beetle, and Obelix, a rather round specimen. Others were named after scientists, including Charles Darwin and DNA pioneers, Francis Crick and James Watson.

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The beetles are only a few millimeters in length. In Sulawesi only a single member of its insect group was found – as early as 1885.

The island, which is known for its exotic species, including birds and monkeys, is covered by lowland rainforests, although this has largely been resolved.

The researchers say there may be more beetles out there.

"Our survey is not complete yet and we may have just scratched the surface," said Raden Pramesa Narakusumo, Beetle curator at the Zoologicum Bogoriense Museum (MZB), Indonesian Biology Research Center.

"Sulawesi is geologically complex and many areas have never been searched for these small bugs."

Image copyright
Alexander Riedel

Caption

Three beetles were named after the French animated series Asterix: Asterix, Obelix and Idefix

The scientists say evidence suggests that thousands of undescribed insects roam the island's rainforests.

However, this does not change the picture of recently reported insect declines associated with two problems, said entomologist Dr. Alexander Riedel from the Natural History Museum Karlsruhe, who was involved in the study.

"The decline in insects that we are currently discussing in Europe is likely to be largely caused by intensive agriculture and insecticides," he told BBC News.

"While the wealth of insect diversity in the tropics is threatened by the destruction of rainforests."

Well over a million insect species have been described worldwide. Recent studies indicate that there is a dramatic decline in insect populations around the world.

The life of insects is at the bottom of the food chain and underpins much of life on Earth.

Image copyright
Alexander Riedel

] Caption

Mountain forest of Sulawesi, where some of the new species were found

Dr. James Hogan of the Oxford Museum of Natural History said the study highlights how much biodiversity we still have to discover and catalog.

"When you actually talk about biodiversity in the real world, what we're talking about here is exactly what's described here – small insects that are less than 5mm long," he said.

"Given the growing threat to biodiversity, it's imperative to do this kind of work before it's too late."

The beetles were identified by DNA sequencing, which is not always available to scientists in Indonesia.

They belong to the genus Trigonopterus.

The research is published in the journal ZooKeys.

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