The Weevil and the Coleopterist - Observation of the Week, 5/11/21

Our Observation of the Week is this Metapocyrtus bituberosus weevil, seen in The Philippines by @anncabras24!

A coleopterist living in Davao City in The Philippines, Analyn “Ann” Cabras is also an organizer of Davao’s City Nature Challenge project and a National Geographic Explorer. “I guess I have always felt like being one with nature,” she tells me, and says she rode horses, climbed trees, and chased bugs as a child. She eventually became an educator and is now a biologist who specializes in weevils. “I think we have some of the prettiest weevils in the world and I love documenting them in the wild,” she says. “A lot of new species are waiting for discovery as well…

The last extensive studies on beetles in the country were in the 1800s and early 1900s. The Philippine beetles, especially for some groups, are terra incognita. Beetles are also less fussy to collect, have a hard sclerotized body which makes collecting, storage, and preservation easier, and are adorned in bright colors and patterns. Most of the ugly beetles are pest ones. But the endemic ones and those living in the forests are adorned in gorgeous colors and patterns. I love the feeling of discovering new [species] and adding the much-needed data [for the future] (especially because we have few taxonomists/systematists in the country).

So it makes sense, of course, that she would come across a gorgeous weevil during this year’s City Nature Challenge. 

We documented it in a resort that has been left unattended for a year because of the pandemic. Although it has pretty colors, it is one of the most common species of Metapocyrtus and has been recorded in several remaining green spaces in the city, which speaks of its high adaptability to anthropogenic disturbances. The majority of the Metapocyrtus species are highly associated with forested habitats.

Ann tells me not much is known about the diet of Metapocyrtus beetles, “but they [have been] observed feeding on young leaves and flowers of some endemic plants. I also keep them as pets and I feed them fresh carrots.” Like other weevils, they have snout from which two antennae protrude, but the family is incredibly diverse, with over 80,000 described species. 

Her National Geographic Explorer work “involves the mimicry complex of weevils, particularly of the tribe Pachyrhynchini,” says Ann (above). “The study of this mimicry complex has led me to publish numerous species which are new to science and conduct a phylogenetic study of the colors involved in the mimicry of patterns.” She’s also gotten grants for organizing BioBlitzes in The Philippines and received a leadership fellowship. She’s been on iNat for nearly six years now and tells me

I use iNaturalist to educate people about wildlife, to seek help in identification for taxa that I'm not familiar with, and also for research. Oftentimes, I scout good observations in iNaturalist to find interesting and new species of weevils. I think iNaturalist is a very good platform to hasten the documentation of wildlife, especially because we are losing most of our forests and green spaces at an unprecedented pace. I do look forward that our local environmental agencies will take advantage of this platform and on my end, I look forward to using more of iNaturalist data to publish interesting finds and data and help make good policies out of it.


- You can check out Ann’s publications here.

- National Geographic wrote an article about Ann’s work, and she’s also featured in their Trailblazer education magazine for third graders (in both English and Spanish).

- This isn’t the first Observation of the Week post to feature a colorful beetle from The Philippines!

Posted by tiwane tiwane, May 12, 2021 06:14

Comments

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Nice! Super good photo! Keep making observations!

Posted by rangermyles 2 months ago (Flag)
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weevils are my favourite beetles.

Posted by trh_blue 2 months ago (Flag)
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Fantastic work Ann!

Posted by susanhewitt 2 months ago (Flag)
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What a stunning insect. Looks like one of the more drably-pigmented species I'm familiar with in North America put on a superhero suit, complete with bulging muscles.

Posted by ddennism 2 months ago (Flag)
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Beautiful beetle! Thank you for sharing!

Posted by sunnetchan 2 months ago (Flag)
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so cool to learn more about your work Ann!

Posted by loarie 2 months ago (Flag)
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Wow, this is so cool!

Posted by featherenthusiast 2 months ago (Flag)
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I like beetles, too. Unfortunately, the use of insecticides by homeowners and communities has become rampant in my Chicago-area suburb. Many of the species I could find forty years have largely disappeared in the past two decades. I keep looking, though.

Posted by johncebula 2 months ago (Flag)
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I absolutely love weevils, and the Sheer biodiversity among them is pretty amazing, Haven't seen one yet (to recent memory) but I would love to come across one someday! Still very early in my life......

Posted by christmasleech123 2 months ago (Flag)
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Wonderful beetle.

Posted by dustaway 2 months ago (Flag)
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I love this. Love your work!

Posted by environmentalista 2 months ago (Flag)

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