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New weevil species discovery ‘almost like discovering a dodo bird’

In the lush rainforests of the Philippines, a remarkable discovery of two weevil species has emerged, highlighting the resilience of nature amidst human-induced disruptions.

Tom Terzin, a dedicated biology professor at the University of Alberta’s Augustana Campus, has made a significant contribution to the world of entomology.

His recent discovery of two unique weevil species — one previously thought to be extinct and another entirely new to science — serves as a testament to the enduring vitality of wildlife.

While working on a broader project examining the impact of environmental changes on insect life, Professor Terzin’s meticulous examination of beetle samples from Northern Negros National Park yielded these extraordinary finds.

The samples, collected in 2016 and 2017, came from an area that had seen its pristine forest almost completely decimated by logging, agriculture, and population growth by the late 20th century.

Weevil species Metapocyrtus (Trachycyrtus) augustanae

Among these samples, a peculiar short-nosed weevil caught Terzin’s eye.

Contrary to its relatives’ metallic sheen, this black bug, about half a centimeter in length, bore light scales on its surface without any distinct pattern.

Dubbed Metapocyrtus (Trachycyrtus) augustanae, named in honor of Augustana Campus, this new species is intriguing for its plainness, a stark contrast to its more flamboyant counterparts.

“This guy was a bit strange, some sort of rebel in refusing to mimic the species,” Terzin remarked, highlighting the specimen’s uniqueness. “It could mean there’s a redirection of the habits of these species, evolutionarily speaking, and being only known from a single specimen, for now, indicates it’s probably a rare species.”

Weevil species Metapocyrtus (Orthocyrtus) bifoveatus

Equally thrilling was the rediscovery of another short-nosed weevil, Metapocyrtus (Orthocyrtus) bifoveatus, last spotted on the island a century ago.

Previously known to inhabit only the lowland rainforests — areas ravaged by deforestation — this vibrant weevil was found thriving in higher altitudes over 1,000 meters.

“Somehow this species has managed to survive in higher altitudes of over 1,000 meters, which shows a struggle for life, that they refused to become extinct from deforestation. In the world of insects, it’s almost like discovering a dodo bird,” Terzin explained, emphasizing the species’ resilience.

Fascination with beetles

Terzin’s fascination with beetles began in childhood, viewing them as “tiny natural robots” with their exoskeletons and segmented bodies.

His enthusiasm is palpable as he describes their behavior, drawing parallels to the simplistic yet effective actions of robots.

“They behave like tiny natural robots. They have an exoskeleton and segmented bodies, and they crawl around obeying simple rules. If there’s an obstacle in their way they usually go around it, which is generally how a robot would behave,” Terzin explained.

Significance of these weevil species discoveries

The significance of these discoveries extends beyond academic curiosity. As the largest family of beetles, weevils play a crucial role in the rainforest ecosystem.

However, their potential as pests, especially in the face of climate change, cannot be overlooked.

“They’re like asteroids that cross the Earth’s orbit. Some of them can be dangerous, but they’re even more dangerous if we don’t know about them. So it’s important to monitor their population — and that means we first need to discover them,” Terzin adds.

These specimens now have a special place in the Augustana Tropical Insects Research Studio’s entomology collection.

They are not just scientific curiosities but valuable resources for teaching and research, particularly in understanding ecological recovery in forestry.

How to name a new species

The naming of the new insect after Augustana serves as a gesture of gratitude for the support Terzin received for his 2016 research trip to the Philippines and recognizes the campus’s growing focus on undergraduate research.

With a rare permit to explore the country’s national parks, Terzin is poised to continue his quest for new insect species in 2025.

His work, beyond its scientific merit, may inspire the Philippine government to open its doors to more international researchers.

As Terzin notes, while the country strives to protect its natural resources, there is a dire need for more researchers to document its rich biodiversity.

“It’s a huge world with lots of still undescribed wonders and species,” he concludes, echoing a sentiment of endless discovery and the importance of preserving our natural world.

Implications and future research

In summary, Professor Tom Terzin’s discovery of two unique weevil species in the Philippines’ Northern Negros National Park vividly illustrates nature’s remarkable capacity for resilience and adaptation.

Through his diligent research, Terzin brings attention to species that challenge our understanding of ecological recovery and underscore the urgent need for continued exploration and documentation of biodiversity in threatened ecosystems.

These findings, significant in their own right, also serve as a clarion call for greater international collaboration in conservation efforts, reminding us of the countless wonders that still await discovery and the crucial role of scientific inquiry in safeguarding our planet’s natural heritage.


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