Charles Darwin may have died more than 130 years ago but that isn't stopping him from continuing to make important contributions to science. A rare beetle he collected over 180 years ago has been identified as a totally new species, and the remarkable thing is that the specimen had spent that last few decades in a storage.
The new beetle was identified by Stylianos Chatzimanolis, an associate professor of biological and environmental sciences from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. The beetle holotype was on loan to Chatzimanolis from the Natural History Museum in London when he noticed something odd.
"I noticed a specimen borrowed from the Natural History Museum that had serrate antennae, an atypical morphological feature in rove beetles," said Chatzimanolis. "Upon further inspection, I realized that the specimen belonged to an undescribed genus and that it was Charles Darwin who had collected it on the Beagle's voyage."
The beetle, now called Darwinilus sedarisi, has been named after the famous naturalist Charles Darwin and the Grammy award winning humorist David Sedaris. Darwin has made numerous contributions to the field of entomology, gathering hundreds of specimens and discovering a number of new species.
"Charles Darwin was an avid beetle collector and his contributions to the study of entomology have been extensive, said Chatzimanolis. "Darwin's collecting efforts on the Beagle's voyage (1831-1836) were important because he brought back to the United Kingdom specimens from places that had not been sampled before."
"Darwin kept meticulous notes on the specimens he collected and those notes are known as "Insect Notes" (kept at the Entomology Library of the Natural History Museum, London) and "Insects in Spirits of Wine" (kept at the Cambridge University Library)," he added.
The new discovery coincides with Darwin's 205th birthday. Darwin collected the South American beetle in the early to mid 1830s when he passed by the Argentinian city of Baha Blanca. The sample was collected during Darwin's famous voyage on the HMS Beagle.
The newly identified beetle is the latest addition to the 57,000 strong rove beetle family. After identifying the beetle, Chatzimanolis pored over numerous insect collections from North American and European museums. However, he was not able to find another sample of Darwinilus sedarisi. Chatzimanolis is hopeful that other specimens of the new beetle might surface. While another specimen from an insect collection would suffice, entomologists are also hoping to find a live specimen in the wild.
The Darwinilus sedarisi beetle has serrated antennae mounted on a roughly hexagonal head. The beetle also has a brightly colored green metallic exoskeleton.