Scientists Turn To The Phonebook To Name 101 New Beetle Species
March 28, 2013

Scientists Turn To The Phonebook To Name 101 New Beetle Species

April Flowers for - Your Universe Online

Tropical rainforests are known to harbor a high biodiversity of untold species, many of them unknown and unnamed by scientists as of yet. Insects, especially beetles, make up a large proportion of this undiscovered life on Earth.

Experts in remote tropical countries' fauna such as the wilderness of New Guinea, Alexander Riedel of the Natural History Museum Karlsruhe (SMNK) and Michael Balke of the Zoological State Collection Munich (SNSB) know this well. They have discovered a special "hyperdiverse" case, the weevil genus Trigonopterus. The jungles of New Guinea are home to hundreds of distinct species, most of which have not been recorded by scientists.

It would take more than a lifetime to describe this huge diversity using traditional approaches, but time is short. Forests are disappearing for the sake of expanding palm oil plantations on this island, and good arguments are needed in the battle for the conservation of each hectare of primary forest.

"This called for a new approach", said Dr Riedel. "A portion of each weevil species' DNA was sequenced, which helped to sort out and diagnose species efficiently. Besides, we have taken high-resolution photographs of each weevil that will be uploaded to Species ID, along with a short scientific description. More than 100 species were brought to the light of science and public attention this way right now — about five times faster than possible with traditional techniques!"

That just left naming the new species. The scientists tackled this problem with an equally innovative idea: using the Papua New Guinea phonebook. Many of the new species were named for popular family names found in the yellowpages, like the Trigonopterus moreaorum, which is based on the family name "Morea." The families might not even guess the honor they have been given — a weevil species with their own name in the backyard.

The scientists described the new species and the general idea of how to get biodiversity better known in the journals Zookeys and Frontiers in Zoology.