AsianScientist (Feb. 9, 2022) – Not to be confused with the word ‘evil’, a whopping 28 new species of weevils have been discovered on Sulawesi island in Indonesia. These newly found creatures, which are a type of beetle, belong to the genus Trigonopterus, as reported in the journal ZooKeys.
Sulawesi is a treasure trove of biodiversity, with its mountains and tropical forests brimming with wildlife. Its unique position in the midst of the Indonesian archipelago also makes it a hotspot for rapid species diversification. From the deer-hogs to the shy Sulawesi babblers foraging on the forest floor, many researchers have already stumbled upon new creatures, piecing together evolutionary puzzles.
The island’s forest ecosystems also contain a diversity of tiny insects that have largely remained overlooked—including the weevils. Unlike the more striking looking jewel beetles with glossy colors or stag beetles bearing large jaws, Trigonopterus species only grow to about two to three millimeters long. They are wingless and highly isolated in their habitats.
Moreover, species in this genus bear an uncanny resemblance to one another, making it difficult to identify new species at first glance. Thankfully, researchers can now use genetics technologies to sequence the DNA of these creatures and distinguish new species.
Mr. Raden Pramesa Narakusumo, curator of beetles at the Museum Zoologicum Bogoriense in Indonesia, found small weevils along the slopes of Mt. Dako and Mt. Pompangeo in central Sulawesi. Collaborating with Dr. Alexander Riedel of the Natural History Museum Karlsruhe in Germany, he discovered 28 new species of Trigonopterus in the collection—pushing the total known species in the genus to 132, likely a mere fraction of the real diversity in Sulawesi.
With all these new critters to study, the team also had to come up with suitable names. While many were given names that alluded to their features or the locality where they were found, the researchers also dubbed one species T. corona to reflect the large impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Others were named after Indonesian movie characters—T. gundala and T. unyil—while the rust-colored T. ewok weevil is a reference to the science fiction hit Star Wars.
According to the researchers, the newly discovered species highlight the need for further study to understand how the evolution and diversification of the beetles unfolded in line with the Sulawesi island’s geological history.
“A large percentage of Indonesian biodiversity is yet unknown and we need names and diagnoses of species, so we can use these in further studies on conservation and bioprospecting,” said Raden Pramesa Narakusumo.
Source: Museum Zoologicum Bogoriense; Photo: Raden Pramesa Narakusumo.
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