Seven new beetle species identified in Canada06/11/2012 09:13:33 Tiny forest beetles are not rare
November 2012. Seven beetle species new to science have been discovered by a young University of Alberta researcher just starting out in her career. Charlene Wood, who had only just finished her master's degree in the Department of Renewable Resources, noted the tinier-than-usual species while studying beetles in decaying aspen trees in northwestern Alberta.
Now Wood, in collaboration with fellow scientists, is preparing to describe the beetles for science. Having studied them over the past four years, Wood is becoming recognized for her knowledge of this group, known by only a few other experts across the globe.
Wood said "It's a dream, as a biologist. I certainly didn't think I would discover new species when I began my project. It's an eye-opener. There are several species right under our noses that we didn't know even existed."
Less than 3 millimetres long
"Deadwood offers a whole variety of distinct habitats, and those habitats are home to hundreds of beetle species, some of which haven't been scientifically reported yet," added Wood, who has successfully defended her thesis and admits to being excited about finding the beetles.
"While these are undescribed species, they aren't rare or uncommon beetles. That they haven't been reported previously is likely a consequence of limited taxonomic expertise and lack of studies on non-pest species."
Vital part of forest ecosystem
"I often get the ‘ick' factor when I tell people I study beetles, but they are a fascinating and important group for us to understand. Beetles are very diverse, they occupy most major habitats on land, and very few are pests. Contrary to being harmful to humans, they do us a service by being important natural components of many ecosystems."
Wood hopes her research increases understanding of how beetles contribute to overall forest diversity, and how to preserve their habitats while harvesting resources.
"If one of the central tenets of sustainable forest management is to maintain biodiversity, the first step is knowing the species and what habitats they really require."
Wood's work was supported by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, Alberta Conservation Association Grants in Biodiversity, the EMEND project and Daishowa-Marubeni International Ltd.
Wood's work is associated with the U of A's Ecosystem Management Emulating Natural Disturbance (EMEND) project.