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Acicnemis ryukyuana: Strange, spiny beetle discovered in Japan

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Acicnemis ryukyuana: Strange, spiny beetle discovered in Japan

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Acicnemis ryukyuana was discovered on Japan’s Ryukyu Islands

OIST

This bristly insect, found roaming on Japan’s subtropical islands, has just been named as a new-to-science species of beetle, Acicnemis ryukyuana.

Since 2015, Jake Lewis at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology and his colleagues have been placing traps around Japan’s Ryukyu Islands to study the wide variety of insects living there.

This specimen, marked by a distinct yellow band on its shoulders, long hair-like scales all over its body and legs, and the unique shape of its torso, belongs to the genus Acicnemis, which comprises over 180 species. The insects are just a few millimetres long, and Lewis verified that Acicnemis ryukyuana was indeed distinct from already known beetles by comparing it with all the others in the genus.

Based on the small number of specimens that entered the traps, these beetles are probably quite rare, says Lewis. They also only showed up in pristine, heavily forested areas. “That’s an indication that this is a species which is native here, because you’ll usually find non-native ones in city areas and parks,” says Lewis.

Around the world, very few types of beetle are currently protected by law. By continuing to identify and learn more about these creatures, Lewis hopes that rare species such as Acicnemis ryukyuana will be granted protection in the future.

Insects such as beetles and moths play a key role in forest decomposition, says Lewis. “Having a more complete knowledge of all the species could lead to a more comprehensive picture of the forest ecology.”

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