Meet the (Newest Known) Beetles!




This is Scientific American 60-Second Earth. I'm David Biello.Your minute begins now.
"The Creator would appear¡ endowed with a passion for stars, on the one hand, and for beetles on the other."
That quip from biologist and atheist J.B.S.Haldane in 1949 is really about the extraordinary number of beetles researchers had characterized, some 300,000 at that time.
Now we know of about 400,000 beetles.
And scientists have just added 98 previously unlisted beetle species to that tally, as well as one rediscovered species thought to be extinct.
The beetles hail from Bali, Java and Lombok in Indonesia, showing once again that islands can be major cradles of biodiversity.
The 99 species can be found in the open access journal ZooKeys, and in the leaf litter of Indonesian forests.
But those forests are falling, to make room for people and palm oil plantations.
With the forests go the forest creatures, including unique fauna like these newly discovered beetles.
And there no doubt exist many, many more unknown species, as the tropical forests of Indonesia remain largely unexplored,
despite expeditions since at least the time of naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace, co-discoverer with Darwin of evolution via natural selection.
The question is, will deforestation wipe away the other unknown insects, and nematodes, microbes and other uncharismatic microfauna before we had a chance to know them?
Your minute is up, for Scientific American 60-Second Earth. I'm David Biello.