A new species of dung beetle has been discovered in Tawang district of Arunachal Pradesh. The species, Enoplotrupes tawangensis, is shining dark blue in colour and, measuring up to 27 mm, is relatively bigger than most of the dung beetles.
The specimens were first collected and studied by two scientists from the Zoological Survey of India: Kailash Chandra and Devanshu Gupta. David Král, a Czech scientist who is an expert on dung beetles, confirmed that he had in his collection similar specimens from Bhutan, which borders Tawang.
Dung beetles belong to the super family scarabaeoidea, having clubbed antennae and pro-tibiae (pro-legs) modified for burrowing dung inside the soil. This group of insects are considered beneficial to the environment as they help in nutrient cycling of the soil. Often referred to as little recyclers, these scavenger beetles require mammalian dung to survive.
The details of Enoplotrupes tawangensis were published in an international peer-reviewed journal Oriental Insects on May 29, 2019. The paper has been authored by Devanshu Gupta, Kailash Chandra, David Král, Joyjit Ghosh and Priyanka Das. “Insects comprise almost 65% of all animal species on the planet. From India, approximately 65,000 species of insects are known, of them, more than 22,000 species are beetles. Dung beetles are the one of the fascinating group of insects because of their ability to bury dung deep in the soil and are indicators of the ecological health of an ecosystem,” Kailash Chandra, who is also the director of ZSI, said.
Other than the relatively large size and distinct blue colour, another important distinguishing characteristic of this species is the strong sexual dimorphism, with the fronto-clypeal horn shorter in females than males.
Three more species of dung beetles from the group Geotrupidae, which roughly means earth borers, were discovered by the same set of scientists in the past three years. One of them, Odontotrypes tawangensis, black with metallic lustre, was also discovered in Tawang in 2016. In the past three years, Mr. Chandra and Mr. Gupta also discovered Bolboceras darjeelicans, measuring about 10 mm, dark brown in colour, from Darjeeling in West Bengal; and Bolboceras bilaspuricans, also shiny dark brown but relatively smaller in size, from Chhattisgarh.