Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Featured insect: Platytenes occultus (Coleoptera: Curculionidae)

Last year, Gregory Setliff (of New Guinea weevil checklist fame) and Peter Larson described Platytenes occultus, a handsome, widespread and common weevil found throughout the Solomon Islands including Bougainville. Until this time, this species has been mistaken for Platytenes varius; until now the only known member of the genus. Platytenes varius is much more widespread, being found from Sulawesi, to New Britain and the Cape York Peninsula. These weevils are part of the subfamily Cryptorhynchinae which are found throughout the world. Most species localised in distribution and so the wide range of both Platytenes species is remarkable.

Both species of Platytenes are frequently found in association with the betel nut palm (Areca catechu) which is grown throughout the Solomon Islands, New Guinea and the Molluccan islands for its fruits which are chewed with pepper leaves and lime powder as a stimulant. This suggests that the wide range of these species may be due to human-mediated movement through the historic trade of betel nuts and palms within the region.

In keeping with typical cryptorhynchine development, the Platytenes species have been reared from wood. As yet, there are no records of specimens being reared from betel palm; rather they've been reared from Ficus and Nauclea species.

This paper is a well-described, thorough description of a very attractive weevil and one which may have some economic impact due to its (as yet improperly determined) association with betel nut palms. Gregory Setliff has already produced an essential checklist for anyone interested in weevils of the region, and this paper further confirms that he's someone to watch with great interest in anticipation of more great work such as this.

Setliff GP, Larson PA. 2009. The Indo-Australian weevil genus Platytenes Pascoe, 1870 (Coleoptera: Curculionidae: Cryptorhynchinae). Insecta Mundi 00-79: 1-14.

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