More than a hundred insect species that are new to science have been discovered on an Indonesian island. Found in remote rainforests, the tiny beetles appear to have been overlooked for decades.
The beetles are only a few millimetres in length. Only a single member of their insect group has been found before on Sulawesi – as long ago as 1885.
The island, known for its exotic wildlife, including birds and monkeys, is covered by lowland rainforests, although much of this has been cleared. The researchers say there may be more of the beetles out there.
“Our survey is not yet complete and possibly we have just scratched the surface,” said Raden Pramesa Narakusumo, curator of beetles at the Museum Zoologicum Bogoriense (MZB), Indonesian Research Center for Biology.
“Sulawesi is geologically complex and many areas have never been searched for these small beetles.”
The scientists say evidence points to thousands of undescribed insect species roaming the rainforests on the island. Whereas the wealth of insect biodiversity in the tropics is endangered by the destruction of rainforests.
Globally, well over one million species of insect have been described to date. Recent studies have suggested there is an ongoing dramatic decline in insect populations around the world.
Insect life is at the bottom of the food chain and underpins much of life on Earth. Dr James Hogan of the Oxford Museum of Natural History said the study highlights how much of biodiversity we have yet to discover and catalogue.
The beetles were identified by DNA sequencing, which is not always available to scientists in Indonesia.