An "alien hunter is coming to QSBG"

Dianous ningxiaensis

Dianous ningxiaensis a recently described

new species (Credit: Liang Tang)

Professor Oliver Betz, of Eberhard Karls University Tübingen, will be based at QSBG Entomology for 3 months starting this coming December while he collects and studies some especially interesting and alien-like rove beetles in the mountains of northern Thailand. He is interested in the subfamily Steninae, especially the genera Stenus and Dianous. The genus Stenus is one of the largest beetle genera on earth and, with the exception of New Zealand, is distributed worldwide, with a radiative centre close to northern Thailand.

These beetles are interesting in a number of ways, most notably Stenus are remarkable for their spear-like monster claw-like sticky mouthparts that they shoot out to grasp their prey, all helped with their impressive "bug eyes" (of course beetles ain't bugs, bugs suck, beetles chew!). Stenus are also noted for their ability to walk on water!

Stenus spear Stenus claspers Stenus attacks

Spear-like mouthparts of Stenus, a close-up of the "spear tip" with claspers (Bauer & Pfeiffer, 1991), and Stenus hunting their prey (Weinreich, 1968)

Dianous were considered the sister genus of Stenus, a view that recently got challenged by molecular studies. These studies suggest that "Dianous" beetles in fact have been radiating within the genus Stenus. It is hoped this work will allow a better understanding of the behaviour, ecology, morphological and molecualar relationships of the two genera to better understand them and their relationship to each other.

The work will be based at QSBG Entomology with Wichai and Chaweewan as collaborators, and with Watana Sakchoowong (Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation) as an external collaborator.

-- Robert