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Insect named after Carlsberg due to bottle-opener shaped genitalia

Researchers have named a newly discovered beetle after beer giant Carlsberg due to its bottle-opener shaped sexual organs, and have also created a stainless steel version of the penis.

(Image courtesy of the University of Copenhagen)

The beetle is one of six which was discovered in South America and hidden in the Natural History Museum of Denmark and other insect collections of the world for decades.

Researchers Aslak Kappel Hansen and colleagues José L. Reyes-Hernández, Josh Jenkins Shaw and Alexey Solodovnikov who analysed the insects subsequently discovered a new species of the rove beetle genus Loncovilius. As a result of its bottle-opener shaped genitalia, the researchers named one of the beetles Loncovilius carlsbergi.

Hansen, from the Natural History Museum of Denmark, said: “Genitalia are the organs in insects that evolve to be different in every species. As such, they are often the best way to identify a species. That’s why entomologists like us are always quick to examine insect genitalia when describing a species. The unique shape of each species’ genitals ensures that it can only reproduce with the same species.”

“This species is characterised, among other things, by the fact that the male’s sexual organ is shaped remarkably like a bottle opener. Therefore, we thought it is obvious to dedicate this species to the Carlsberg Foundation, which has generously supported independent research for many years. Their support for various projects, expeditions, or purchase of the scientific instruments at the Natural History Museum of Denmark contributes to the discovery of new species on our planet.”

Stainless steel

The researchers hope the penis of Loncovilius carlsbergi might sparkle a broader interest in insects, and as a result they have made a a model of the beetle’s sexual organ, produced in stainless steel.

“It’s important that we recognise the vast wealth of yet to be researched species around us before it’s too late. We would like for people around the world to talk about the crisis facing our planet’s species. A move towards serious learning and awareness may be sparkled by a light chat that takes place over a beer,” concludes Aslak Kappel Hansen.

The researchers are now working on putting the bottle-opener into production.

In general, little is known about the Loncovilius beetles apart that they live in South America. But due to the fact that they live on flowers, they are considered quite special in their family, as the vast majority of predatory rove beetles live on the ground among dead leaves, under bark or on fungi.

Quite beautiful

Josh Jenkins Shaw added: “We suspect that they play an important role in the ecosystem. So, it’s worrying that nearly nothing is known about this type of beetles, especially when they’re so easy to spot – and some of them are even quite beautiful. Unfortunately, we can easily lose species like these before they’re ever discovered.”

The scientists said more attention is urgently required to the planet’s millions of unknown species, before it is too late. Species are becoming extinct faster than ever. Indeed, up to 150 species are lost from the planet every day. At the same time, the vast majority of Earth’s species including those which vanish, remain unidentified.

José L. Reyes-Hernández, the lead author of the Loncovilius study, said: “Loncovilius populations are likely to change in coming decades. Our simulations demonstrate that at least three of the Loncovilius species are at risk because the rapidly changing climate strongly alternate more than half of their habitat area by 2060. It is important to stress that many more species will be affected by this change, but we don’t know how because only for four species we had enough data for our analysis.”

“It is estimated that as many as 85% of all species on Earth are still not formally named and described. Many species go extinct without ever having been named or recognized by science and as a consequence by humanity as a whole. A taxonomic name is important because nature conservation relies on knowledge about species in particular areas. Without such a description, species are often left out of conservation efforts,” explains Josh Jenkins Shaw.

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