Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle on Guam – an update

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An adult male coconut rhinoceros beetle. Emmy Engasser, Hawaiian Scarab ID, USDA APHIS ITP, Bugwood.org

10 years ago the Coconut Rhinoceros beetle (CRB) was first discovered on the western Pacific island of Guam. Since then, these shoe-shine black, miniature invaders have spread to all parts of the island and are laying waste to the local coconut and oil palm population. The economy, culture and ecology  of Guam and other Pacific islands are intrinsically linked to the native palm species such that the rhino beetle poses a major threat. The indigenous peoples of Guam have a long history of weaving palm fronds, an artistry that is now at risk due to the rhino beetle. These trees are a symbol of tropic paradise, a motif that drives Guam’s primary industry; tourism. Continue reading

From Beyonce to Lady Gaga- The Importance of Insect Taxonomy

Scaptia Beyonceae, named after the singer Beyonce © Erick via Wikimedia Commons (License CC-BY-SA-3.0)
Scaptia Beyonceae, named after the singer Beyonce by Bryan Lessard © Erick via Wikimedia Commons (License CC-BY-SA-3.0)

Taxonomy is the system used to categorise species by defining groups of organisms on the basis of shared characteristics and giving names to those groups. To date, around 1 million insect species have been described, however it is thought that this only represents about 10% of the insect species living on Earth, meaning new species are being discovered on a daily basis.

Taxonomy has been described as one of the oldest professions in the world, since early humans would have named the things around them so that they knew, for example, what plants were safe to eat or what fungi were poisonous. In the 18th century Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus created the binomial system of nomenclature that is still used today. The start date for modern entomological taxonomy is based on Linnaeus’ tenth edition of his work Systema Naturae (1758). Linnaeus’ hierarchical system means that species can be identified from Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family and Genus right down to Species.

Often an insect name refers to an attribute that characterises them, for example Oryctes rhinoceros, the rhinoceros beetle, is a huge Scarab beetle with a horn like a rhinoceros, and Titanus giganteus is one of the largest beetles in the world. Many well respected entomologists have species named after them as an honor,  for example Max Barclay, the Curator and Collections Manager of Coleoptera and True Bugs at the Natural History Museum in London has numerous beetle species named after him, including Cartodere barclayiContinue reading