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Australia. He discovered a new species of beetle. At first he thought it was bird droppings

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What's red, black and hairy? A new species of beetle Excastra albopilosa discovered in Australia. The scientist who did this initially confused the insect with bird droppings.

James Tweed discovered a new species of beetle while camping in Lamington National Park in 2021. A PhD student from the University of Queensland initially mistook the insect for bird droppings.

– One morning I was walking around the campsite at Binna Burra Lodge and something on a lomander leaf caught my attention – said the researcher. – To my surprise, I saw the most unusual and fluffy longhorn beetle I have ever seen – he added. According to the scientist, the beetle measured 9.7 millimeters and was covered with long white hairs. The entomologist photographed the beetle and took it for examination.

A new species of beetle. “White and Hairy”

After the trip, the scientist tried to identify the species found at the bivouac in books and scientific articles, but in vain. So he posted a photo of the insect on an Australian Facebook group for beetle enthusiasts. The photo of the red and black hairy insect attracted a lot of attention, but even the most experienced members of the group did not recognize the species. Only an e-mail to experts from the Australian National Insect Collection (ANIC) in Canberra confirmed that the insect Tweed found was a completely new species. The national science agency CSIRO also confirmed this. It received a name Excastra albopilosa.

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– We chose the name ““Excastra”because in Latin it means “from the camp”, and “albopilosa“, because it translates as “white and hairy,” Tweed told the BBC. “We don't know yet what these hairs are for, but our main theory is that they make the insect look like it was killed by insecticidal mushroom – said the researcher. – It would probably deter predators such as birds from eating it, but until someone finds more specimens and further studies this species, we will not be able to say for sure why this beetle is so hairy – he explained.

The largest group in the world

Lamington National Park, where Binna Burra Lodge is located, is a popular place for entomologists to search for various species of insects. – I returned to this area several times to look for more of these beetles, but I had no luck – said the scientist. He added that such accidental discoveries highlight how many unknown species may exist and how many of them may be at risk of extinction. – Insects are the most diverse group of animals on our planet, but they are also the most underestimated and understudied. Estimates suggest there may be 5.5 million species of insects worldwide, and only one-fifth of them have been named and described, the entomologist added.

BBC, The University of Queensland

Main photo source: University of Queensland/X

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