Close-up of the heart-shaped leg joint of Ivierhipidius beetle

New love bug with a heart shaped leg discovered

A new group of beetles with a heart-shaped leg joint has been discovered in the rainforest in Belize by a Natural History Museum scientist.

The new beetle genus, Ivierhipidius has been scientifically described for the first time from two specimens found in a sample of several thousand mixed insects from a field trip to work with colleagues in Central America. 

Natural History Museum beetle collections manager, Max Barclay knew this was an extraordinary find when he spotted the prominent heart shaped trochanter, which connects the upper leg to the abdomen and is different from any other beetle.  He then found more specimens by searching in collections. 

But is there more to this unusual heart shaped feature on its body than meets the eye?

Max Barclay, who led the study, says:

“All of the specimens so far have been male – we have yet to see a female. Its closest relatives are parasites developing inside other insects. We don’t yet know what its heart-shaped joint is used for, but we do know that the males don’t even have a functional mouth to eat, so their only purpose is to search for mates. They certainly have a one-track mind.”

Max adds; “There are more than 400,000 known beetle species, they are the largest group of organisms on the planet, playing a critical role in ecosystems. One in five of living creatures is a beetle, and we are still uncovering new species today, even some with new modifications of body parts that disclose more about their evolution and way of life.”

Deepening our understanding of the diversity of plants and animals helps us to better understand the planet on which we live, and helps us to conserve natural environments for future generations. 

The beetle collection at Natural History Museum includes more than half of the known beetle species on Earth, making it the largest and most comprehensive collection of its kind in the world. The Museum is a world centre for the study of the classification and identification of living organisms.

Notes for editors 

Images: Please download from https://nhm.box.com/s/qklbg7y0dw214mprw4itr8zamnpq2wqr and credit: © The Trustees of the Natural History Museum, London (Not for publication)

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  • The formal description was published in the scientific journal Acta Entomologica http://www.aemnp.eu/PDF/55_2/55_2_691.pdf 
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