New Caledonian Leaf Beetle Species Could Shed Light on Island Evolution

two species found in New CaledoniaPhoto: Image courtesy: Jesús Gómez-ZuritaArsipoda geographica and Arsipoda rostrata,the two new species discovered in New Caledonia

New Caledonia has always been a hotspot for biodiversity studies. In a recent research funded by National Geographic, researchers from Spain and New Caledonia have discovered two new plant-eating beetle species. Of the 60 species existing throughout the world, only five of these so-called flea beetles had been discovered until now in New Caledonia, Western Pacific.

One of them is named Arsipoda geographica in recognition of the National Geographic sponsorship. The other one is called Arsipoda rostrata. Described as ancient species, the most amazing secret of these two plant eaters is their feeding habit. They eat plants that had not been found on the archipelago until now, so the discovery is not only one of beetles but of plants as well.

Arsipoda geographicaPhoto: Image courtesy:Jesús Gómez-ZuritaArsipoda geographica: the beetle named after National Geographic.

According to the study published in the Journal of Natural History, scientists used previously developed molecular tools termed DNA-based diet diagnosis. As per this diagnosis, the DNA sequence from gut contents provided interesting clues about the beetles’ dietary behavior and showed that these beetles feed on a tropical plant group that had not yet been discovered on the island.

“The study was a little beyond the mere characterization of species to investigate the ecology of herbivorous insects with a prodigious jumping ability to escape predators,” says SINC’s Jesús Gómez-Zurita, staff scientist CSIC and author of the study.

New Caledonia is an isolated island in the western Pacific. The study of the diversity of such an island and its biota (ecology) is very important to biologists as it might shed light on island evolution. While the researchers are working toward the conservation of New Caledonia’s flora and fauna, we may never know how many other unique natural wonders are waiting to be discovered.

“Surely, the study of diversity and affinities holds the key to understanding the evolution of life in that part of the world,” says Gómez-Zurita.

Sources: 1, 2