New beetle species gets a local name ... by vote

The final name for the species was selected from five entries – namely Eustra shanghaiensis, Eustra huangxiei, Eustra swinhoei, Eustra bingang and Eustra zhendan.
Dong Jun / SHINE

A specimen of the newly discovered species of beetle, whose body is only 3.12 millimeters long, is put on display at Shanghai Normal University’s Xuhui campus yesterday.

A new species of beetle which was spotted at Binjiang Forest Park in the Pudong New Area has a name — Eustra shanghaiensis — as voted by the public, researchers who found the insect announced on Tuesday.

"The name in Latin combines Shanghai and the genus of the extremely rare insect species, and it received more than 4,000 votes from the public," said Song Xiaobin, an insect expert and one of the researchers who detected the species which has not been previously recorded anywhere.

The final name was selected from five entries — namely Eustra shanghaiensis, Eustra huangxiei, Eustra swinhoei, Eustra bingang and Eustra zhendan. Eustra bingang ranked second with 3,000-plus votes, and is the pronunciation of Binjiang in the Shanghai dialect, alluding to the spot where the insect was found, Song said. 

The vote started last week. 

Shanghai had already found two new beetle species this year. One was spotted at Shanghai Zoo, while the other was discovered on Tianma Mountain.

"It is the first time that the public was invited to vote for the name of a new beetle species in Shanghai, which helps raise awareness on ecological protection," said Song. 

Specimen of the beetle, whose body is only 3.12 millimeters long on average, were donated to the Shanghai Natural History Museum, Shanghai Normal University and Binjiang Forest Park on Tuesday for scientific use and display. 

A discovery thesis will soon be published on ZooKeys, a scientific journal covering zoological taxonomy, phylogeny, and biogeography.

The insect was spotted by Song and two others researchers, all from the Nature Tale Studio. It was accidentally found during a science popularization event late last year in which residents were taken on a search of plants and insects at the park to experience biodiversity.

It is the second Eustra genus beetle found in Shanghai since 1949.

The beetle has oval-shaped black spots on its wings. It emits odor and produces noxious or even caustic secretions that can be searingly hot at 60 degrees Celsius — even reaching 77 degrees — which is used to deter would-be predators.

About 200 beetles of the new species were seen at the park, thanks to the lush forest near rivers at the park which has very few visitors, providing an ideal habitat for the insects, said Song. 

All members of the genus are very rare insects. They are timid and like hiding in a dark and damp environment like rotten wood, ants' nest and caves.

In total, four Eustra species have been recorded in Shanghai, according to Song.

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