Poster Title

Documentation of New Species of the Bizarre South African Endemic Genus Meziomorphum (Coleoptera: Ptinidae)

Grade Level at Time of Presentation

Junior

Institution

Western Kentucky University

KY House District #

20

KY Senate District #

32

Department

Dept. of Biology

Abstract

Documentation of New Species of the Bizarre South African

Endemic Genus Meziomorphum (Coleoptera: Ptinidae)

Olivia M. Gearner

T. Keith Philips

Department of Biology, Western Kentucky University

South Africa is home to some of the highest spider beetle diversity in the world. However, due to their small body size, and often small populations with limited distributions, there are likely many species that remain undiscovered and undocumented. Further, this megadiverse region includes three biodiversity hotspots - regions with high diversity that are also under severe threat of environmental destruction. Meziomorphum is a genus of spider beetles only found in South Africa within two of these hotspots. Four species of this genus are known, including one that exists only within a single cave located in the Western Cape. Four new species were recently discovered in several museum collections and are described herein.

This genus is one of the most morphologically unique and distinct within the spider beetles. Species are characterized by a bizarre meringue-like and thick covering composed of fused setae on the pronotum and rows of long, erect spines on the elytra, the latter potentially an adaptation for avoiding predation from ants. Importantly, these beetles are useful for determining where protected areas should be created, as their distribution reflects habitats with a wide variety of species with similar high levels of endemicity that are also under a great risk of extinction.

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Documentation of New Species of the Bizarre South African Endemic Genus Meziomorphum (Coleoptera: Ptinidae)

Documentation of New Species of the Bizarre South African

Endemic Genus Meziomorphum (Coleoptera: Ptinidae)

Olivia M. Gearner

T. Keith Philips

Department of Biology, Western Kentucky University

South Africa is home to some of the highest spider beetle diversity in the world. However, due to their small body size, and often small populations with limited distributions, there are likely many species that remain undiscovered and undocumented. Further, this megadiverse region includes three biodiversity hotspots - regions with high diversity that are also under severe threat of environmental destruction. Meziomorphum is a genus of spider beetles only found in South Africa within two of these hotspots. Four species of this genus are known, including one that exists only within a single cave located in the Western Cape. Four new species were recently discovered in several museum collections and are described herein.

This genus is one of the most morphologically unique and distinct within the spider beetles. Species are characterized by a bizarre meringue-like and thick covering composed of fused setae on the pronotum and rows of long, erect spines on the elytra, the latter potentially an adaptation for avoiding predation from ants. Importantly, these beetles are useful for determining where protected areas should be created, as their distribution reflects habitats with a wide variety of species with similar high levels of endemicity that are also under a great risk of extinction.