Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Featured insect: Eucurtiopsis kitchingi (Coleoptera: Histeridae)

It may be difficult to tell, but this is actually a beetle. More specifically, it goes by the name of Eucurtiopsis kitchingi and is in the subfamily Chlamydopsinae of the Histeridae. It was very recently described (in September) by Alexey Tishechkin from material collected during the Santo 2006 expedition. Doesn't it look cool!

The Chlamydopsinae are an interesting group. Shunning the scavenging and predatory stereotype that the histerids have, the chlamydopsines cohabit with ants and termites, where they might feed on eggs and larvae. One species has also been observed riding on top of their host ants as a means of transport. Until recently, they were considered to be a relatively species-poor group, with only 47 species in 1997. However, the past 10 years has revealed a startling amount of diversity, particularly on the Pacific Islands of New Caledonia and Vanuatu, and undoubtedly with more to be discovered in other regions also.

Unfortunately, nothing is known about the biology of E. kitchingi. It was collected in flight intercept traps, and was not detected in any of the ant nests the author investigated. At 1.5 mm in length, it's not going to make its presence felt, and is unlikely to be found serendipitously. This being said, ant research is an active area currently, and so it might pay for ant workers to keep these beetles in mind as they do their field work.

Caterino MS, Degallier N. 2007.A review of the biology and systematics of Chlamydopsinae (Coleoptera: Histeridae). Invertebrate Systematics 21: 1-28.

Tishechkin AK. 2009. Discovery of Chlamydopsinae (Insecta, Coleoptera, Histeridae) in Vanuatu with the description of eight new species from Espiritu Santo Island. Zoosystema 30(3) : 661-690.

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