New beetle species found in Namaqualand

January 6, 2016, 3:58pm

HITTING ITS STRIDE: The galloping beetle in action. Picture: WITS  

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SCIENTISTS have discovered a number of new species of water beetles in Namaqualand, in the Northern Cape.

Scientists from Plymouth University have so far identified six new species at the Bokkeveld plateau‚ a region that gets good winter rains but is generally arid.

Reader in aquatic biology at the university David Bilton‚ who first began sampling water beetles in the area as a result of annual field trips with undergraduates in a marine biology and coastal ecology course‚ said: "This part of Namaqualand has reliable winter rains‚ and so differs climatically from much of the drier surrounding region.

"Given its ecological isolation‚ it seemed likely that it would support a number of aquatic species unknown elsewhere‚ and this indeed seems to be the case. The area has long been renowned for the diversity of its plant life‚ but it also supports a rich aquatic fauna‚ despite the fact that almost all waterbodies are temporary and dry out in summer," Dr Bilton said.

"Six new species in two days is an astonishing number of water beetles from a small semi-arid area‚ and this suggests that additional unknown species live in the region. It seems the reliable winter rains of the Bokkeveld not only support a unique flora‚ but have also allowed the survival of lots of freshwater life."

Dr Bilton is collaborating with conservationists and scientists in the region understand and conserve fauna.

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