Twenty-six New Species of Minute Litter Bugs Described in New Book

UC Riverside researchers discover 26 new species and expand range to countries between Nicarauga and Bolivia

book cover

Cover of the new book, “Pegs, Pouches, and Spines: Systematics and Comparative Morphology of the New World Litter Bug Genus Chinannus Wygodzinsky, 1948.”

By Richard Levine, Entomological Society of America

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (www.ucr.edu) — True bugs in the infraorder Dipsocoromorpha are known as minute litter bugs because of their small size and because they inhabit cryptic microhabitats including leaf litter, low vegetation, the interstitial zone of streams, and mangroves.

Schizopteridae, the largest family within Dipsocoromorpha, comprises 56 described genera and more than 250 species, but scientists believe the diversity to be much greater and that many species remain undiscovered.

A new book, “Pegs, Pouches, and Spines: Systematics and Comparative Morphology of the New World Litter Bug Genus Chinannus Wygodzinsky, 1948,” revises one genus, Chinannus, which was previously believed to consist of just two species found in Costa Rica and Trinidad. However, the authors of the book describe 26 new species, and expand the known range to most countries between Nicaragua and Bolivia.

The researchers — Alexander Knyshov, Stephanie Leon, Rochelle Hoey-Chamberlain, and Christiane Weirauch — from the University of California, Riverside sorted (with the help from numerous student assistants) more than 950 bulk samples from 23 countries, ranging from the U.S. to Argentina.

“The book greatly expands our knowledge about this genus, its diversity, and distribution, but also indicates how understudied the litter bugs are in general,” said Knyshov. “In fact, distribution ranges of individual species are generally so small, and diversity is so large, that every new distinct locality of a tropical rainforest has a high chance of yielding a new species. The book also shows that old samples stored in natural history collections might be full of treasures waiting to be described.”

One characteristic of Chinannus males is a mysterious “wing organ,” which is an enlarged, sclerotized vein of the wing with some fine structures on it. Different species of Chinannus can be identified based on the structure of the wing organ. Another way to distinguish species is based on genitalia. Using molecular methods, the researchers also matched the extremely sexually dimorphic males and females of several species.

The new book contains keys for identifying males and females based on wing organs and genitalia, as well as line drawings and photographs taken with an electron microscope and a confocal microscope.

“Pegs, Pouches, and Spines: Systematics and Comparative Morphology of the New World Litter Bug Genus Chinannus Wygodzinsky, 1948″ is available for purchase at http://tinyurl.com/jolyb6y.

 

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