New Canadian beetle species discovery


This 2017 video from Scotland says about itself:

The value of dead wood: Dead wood (coarse woody debris or CWD) is extremely important to the health of the forest, and this is being increasingly recognised by conservationists. Not only is it an aspect of the process of nutrient cycling, providing a steady, slow-release source of nitrogen, but it is also thought to play a significant role in carbon storage. Fallen logs can also increase soil stability within a woodland.

Microhabitats: Standing dead trees (snags) and fallen debris provide a fantastic array of ‘microhabitats’. There is a breathtaking range of saproxylic (deadwood-dependent) organisms including fungi, lichens, invertebrates, mosses and birds, many of them having very specific requirements, and some specialising exclusively on one particular microhabitat. A remarkable 40% of woodland wildlife is dependent on this aspect of the forest ecosystem.

Invertebrates: Among the invertebrates, specialist flies and beetles are particularly well represented. A number of these have now become extremely rare, as a result of loss of habitat. Certain insects depend on the fungi which grow on dead trees. For example, the black tinder fungus beetle (Bolitophagus reticulatus) (which occurs in Glen Affric) and another beetle (Bolitothorus cornutus) live in the fruiting bodies of the tinder fungus (Fomes fomentarius) which is only found on dead birches. Then there are some endangered species which specialise on Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris), such as the pine hoverfly (Blera fallax) which breeds in wet pockets of decay in large pine stumps. This species is found in only a few places, including Abernethy, and is threatened by loss of habitat. Another rare hoverfly (Callicera rufa), whose larvae rely on rot holes in old pines, has been recorded in Glen Affric.

At present Trees for Life are taking a particular interest in the saproxylic insects associated with aspen (Populus tremula), such as the aspen hoverfly (Hammerschmidtia ferruginea). There is in fact a whole specialist community of insects which depend on the dead wood of aspen in various stages of decay, and one of these species – a fly (Ectaetia christiei) – was only identified by scientists for the first time in the 1990s. In order to fully flourish, this community requires a minimum of 4.5 hectares of woodland containing decaying aspen and other broadleaved trees

Birds, bats and other vertebrates: One third of all woodland birds nest in holes or cavities in dead trees, and large, hollowing trees provide ideal roosting sites for species such as the great spotted woodpecker (Dendrocopos major) and various owls. The crested tit (Parus cristatus) is highly dependent on dead pines for nesting, and excavates its nest hole in the softer, rotten wood of large diameter pine snags. Some birds also rely on the invertebrates in dead wood as a food source. At least ten of our fifteen bat species use tree holes for summer and winter roosts. Raptors (birds of prey) will frequently use snags as lookouts and food handling points. In addition, logs are a valuable physical feature for other vertebrates, and are used for cover, feeding, lookouts, resting, sunning, drumming and hibernating.

Read more here.

From Wildlife Extra:

Seven new beetle species identified in Canada

Tiny forest beetles are not rare

November 2012. Seven beetle species new to science have been discovered by a young University of Alberta researcher just starting out in her career. Charlene Wood, who had only just finished her master’s degree in the Department of Renewable Resources, noted the tinier-than-usual species while studying beetles in decaying aspen trees in northwestern Alberta.

Now Wood, in collaboration with fellow scientists, is preparing to describe the beetles for science. Having studied them over the past four years, Wood is becoming recognized for her knowledge of this group, known by only a few other experts across the globe.

Deadwood

Her study of deadwood-a largely overlooked part of the North American boreal forest-is one of the few studies in Canada focused on the rich diversity of beetles that dwell in decaying wood. Wood’s work revealed different beetles in each stage of the decay sequence in aspen wood. Along with recording seven new species in this habitat, Wood found an additional 47 beetle species not previously known to occur in Alberta-a significant addition to the list of provincial species.

Wood said “It’s a dream, as a biologist. I certainly didn’t think I would discover new species when I began my project. It’s an eye-opener. There are several species right under our noses that we didn’t know even existed.”

Less than 3 millimetres long

All seven species she found are less than three millimetres long; most beetles studied are larger and more conspicuous, Wood said. Six of the species feed on fungus and are members of the group known as minute brown scavenger beetles. The seventh species is a monotomid beetle, which is thought live in the tunnels created by bark beetles in newly dead trees and feed on fungus and larvae of other beetles.

“Deadwood offers a whole variety of distinct habitats, and those habitats are home to hundreds of beetle species, some of which haven’t been scientifically reported yet,” added Wood, who has successfully defended her thesis and admits to being excited about finding the beetles.

Not rare

Some of the new beetle species are quite abundant, and Wood feels they could be more widespread in Canada.

“While these are undescribed species, they aren’t rare or uncommon beetles. That they haven’t been reported previously is likely a consequence of limited taxonomic expertise and lack of studies on non-pest species.”

Vital part of forest ecosystem

Beetles are important players in forest ecosystems, Wood said. The insects are a food source for songbirds and woodpeckers, and by consuming the wood of dead trees and then excreting the digested wood fragments, many beetles help return to forest soils nutrients that were once taken up by living trees.

“I often get the ‘ick’ factor when I tell people I study beetles, but they are a fascinating and important group for us to understand. Beetles are very diverse, they occupy most major habitats on land, and very few are pests. Contrary to being harmful to humans, they do us a service by being important natural components of many ecosystems.”

Wood hopes her research increases understanding of how beetles contribute to overall forest diversity, and how to preserve their habitats while harvesting resources.

“If one of the central tenets of sustainable forest management is to maintain biodiversity, the first step is knowing the species and what habitats they really require.”

Wood’s work was supported by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, Alberta Conservation Association Grants in Biodiversity, the EMEND project and Daishowa-Marubeni International Ltd.

Wood’s work is associated with the U of A’s Ecosystem Management Emulating Natural Disturbance (EMEND) project

When you have to name 65 new species at once, it pays to get creative. That’s how the Darth Vader beetle, or Agathidium vaderi, came to grace a scientific publication in 2005: here.

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5 thoughts on “New Canadian beetle species discovery

  1. Pingback: Record visits numbers at this blog, again | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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