March 26th, 2013 by Jake Richardson
138 new beetle species from Central and South America were identified last month by the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History researchers Michael Caterino and Alexey Tishechkin. Specimens were gathered from Argentina, Mexico, Belize, Costa Rica, Panama, Brazil, Ecuador, and Peru. Analysis of the male genitalia helped the researchers identify the different species.
In forests, beetles consume carcasses, dung, rotten wood and so help decompose it. They also decrease populations of insects humans sometimes consider pests like caterpillars. Aphids are also consumed by ladybird beetles, and aphids can damage certain plants.
Some African beetles are also consumed by humans as a protein source. In Cameroon, some beetles are collected and sold to foreigners in order to generate side incomes. Additionally, beetles are a food source for birds. Some beetle species also do harm, like when they eat tree bark and kill thousands of trees.
So beetles may seem like odd, trivial insects to some people, but they are a significant part of many ecosystems. Without them, those natural habitats might not function very well, and so they deserve to be respected and conserved just like the species humans typically prefer, such as lions, elephants, bears and dolphins.
These large mammals with two eyes, teeth and a mouth, ears and four legs are often called the charismatic mega fauna. We identify with them in part, because they resemble ourselves more closely than other species. The fact they are closer in appearance to ourselves does not mean other species are less valuable. In fact, the species we don’t identify with as being beautiful or lovable, may have a value simply because their presence makes us aware of our own biases and judgementality.
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