Friday, 29 March 2013

101 Beetles Get Names from Phone Book


Stephanie Pappas, LiveScience Senior Writer
Date: 27 March 2013 Time: 08:01 AM ET

What do you do when you run across hundreds of nameless species of beetle in the wilderness of New Guinea?

No, the correct answer is not "run away screaming" — at least if you're a scientist dedicated to discovering the massive diversity of insect life. Instead, researchers from the German Natural History Museum Karlsruhe and the Zoological State Collection in Munich turned to the phone book to label all the new species.

After discovering hundreds of distinct species of weevils (a superfamily of beetles) in the genus Trigonopterus, scientists Alexander Riedel and Michael Balke realized they could spend a lifetime describing and naming them all. So they created a scientific shortcut: sequencing a portion of each weevil's DNA to sort out the different species and taking photographs for the online database Species ID, a Wikipedia-like website for cataloguing biodiversity.

"More than 100 species were brought to the light of science and public attention this way right now — about five times faster than possible with traditional techniques," Riedel said in a statement.

To quickly label the species, the researchers used common family names from the Papua New Guinea phone book. One weevil got the moniker Trigonopterus moreaorum after the common name "Morea."

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