Rare beetle find in Porongurup National Park opens study doors

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Picture: Bo Janmaat
Camera IconPicture: Bo Janmaat Credit: Bo Janmaat

A rare and ancient beetle has been rediscovered in Porongurup National Park.

The beutelius rutherfordi beetle, pictured, was found by Porongurup conservationist Loxely Fedec, licensed fauna surveyor Bo Janmaat, and geologist Lucia Quearry.

“The beutelius beetle is at the very beginning of all coleoptera first appearing on this Earth,” Ms Fedec said. The group, all members of Friends of the Porongurup Range, stumbled on the critter during one of their surveys, but none of them had ever seen it before.

“Its existence has been known for a while, but because it is so rare it has only been collected once,” Ms Fedec said.

“They are the oldest living Australian beetle species, older than Gondwana itself. Two-hundred million years ago they were more widespread, but only four of the original 18 species remain today.”

She said there were only five adult specimens and a single larva specimen known to be in existence.

“There is still so much to learn, and this beetle is like finding the key to a DNA version of Aladdin’ s cave — at least, that’s how I see it,” she said.

After the beetle had been identified, she contacted Canadian entomologist Professor Steve Marshall, who she had met five years ago when he travelled to the area to look for the beetle. She has since been contacted by a CSIRO entomologist, who wants to conduct more research about the beetle.

“Porongurup itself is an ancient place, often a refugial place, and acts as a life raft for a number of primitive short-range endemic species,” Ms Fedec said.

“The more people who know this and understand this, the more people will advocate for this place and the creatures that live here.”

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