The Jakarta Post

Beetle named after coronavirus among 88 new species found

Theresia Sufa

Researchers from the National Research and Innovation Agency (BRIN), who also collaborated with scientists from other countries, have described 88 new flora and fauna species throughout last year, including a new beetle species named after the coronavirus.

A species description is the formal description of the features of a newly discovered species, usually in the form of a scientific paper. It is also the process that validates the scientific name of any new species.

The agency’s head of life science research organization, Iman Hidayat, underlined the importance of the discovery of the new species, particularly as it would open up more research opportunities in the future.

While the majority of the new species were discovered in Indonesia, particularly from Sulawesi, BRIN researchers have also collaborated with other scientists to examine specimens from other countries, namely Papua New Guinea and the Philippines.

Of the newly discovered species, animals made up the large share, with 75 new species that include beetles, shrews, snakes, worms, shrimp and fish.

Sixty-eight percent of the newly identified animal species were endemic to Sulawesi, while the remainder, which includes lizards, frogs, cockroaches and birds, were discovered across several areas.

An entomologist from BRIN, Pramesa Narakusumo Germany, said fieldwork had been conducted in Mount Dako, Central Sulawesi, in 2018 and in Mount Pompangeo, Central Sulawesi, in 2020, during which the research team found as many as 28 new beetle species, including a new species named after the new coronavirus.

“I described the Trigonopterus corona beetle in 2021, along with 27 other beetle species. The name refers to the SARS-CoV-2 [the virus that causes COVID-19],” Pramesa told The Jakarta Post on Feb. 7, adding that the beetle had been discovered in Mount Dako.

He explained that the Trigonopterus acted as a natural decomposer in forest ecosystems. The snout beetle can only be found in the primary forest ecosystem and its presence could potentially serve as an indicator of forests’ health.

In addition to the current pandemic, Pramesa also took inspiration from some fictional characters in the naming of the new species, namely Trigonopterus gundala and Trigonopterus unyil. Gundala is the superhero protagonist in Gundala Putra Petir (Gundala, Son of Thunder) by Harya “Hasmi” Suraminata, while Unyil is a schoolboy character in Si Unyil, a TV show that aired in the 1980s and early 1990s on state television broadcaster TVRI.

Meanwhile, 13 new floral species were discovered, 54 percent of which came from Sulawesi, such as new begonias, orchids and cyrtandras. The remainder of the new floral species were found in Sumatra and West Java.

Iman added that BRIN’s life science research organization, which acts as a national coordinator of research programs for life science, currently focused its activities on research efforts to discover and study the use of new species, as well as conserve endangered plants.

Some of the conservation efforts that BRIN has conducted include storing the whole genome sequence data of plants, assessment of impacts from the climate crisis and other threats to the ecosystem, rehabilitation and ex situ conservation of endangered species.





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