Scientist Thought This Beetle Was Bird Poo

What are the chances that you will discover a new species of beetle while you’re camping? It’s a very rare opportunity, and fortunately for entomologist James Tweed, that opportunity fell on him like bird poo. Not literally, of course.

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It happened while he was out camping in the Gold Coast hinterland in December 2021. Nobody would probably fault him for thinking that the new species of longhorn beetle was bird poo, since it was only one centimeter long and covered in fluffy white, spiky hairs all over its body.

He first saw it on a leaf, and thought nothing of it until he did a double take, and discovered that it was actually a beetle, the likes of which he had never seen before. Excited, he took a picture of it, and went around online to ask a Facebook group of insect enthusiasts to identify what beetle it is.

When nobody came up with an answer, he knew that he had discovered something new. Thankfully, he’s a PhD candidate at the University of Queensland, so he took the beetle to the CSIRO’s Australian National Insect Collection to be studied.

And true to Australia’s identity as the land filled with some of the most exotic and dangerous creatures in the world, this new species of beetle goes on the list, along with spiky-haired caterpillars, and an orange-maned jet black ant.

The new beetle has been named Excastra albopilosa which means “white and hairy (albopilosa) in the camp (Excastra).” Scientists surmise that the beetle developed this trait of white hairy spikes as a defense mechanism against predators, as it mimics that of an insect killed by a fungus.

(Image credit: James Tweed)

Source: neatorama

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