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New UK beetle species discovered in Sussex

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Jeremy Torrance web producer Jeremy Torrance web producer | 15:22 UK time, Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Great news just in from the Sussex Wildlife Trust. A species of beetle new to Britain has just been discovered. It's a species of rove beetle - the second largest family of beetles - called Quedius lucidulus. Not the punchiest of names perhaps, but when there's another 46,000-odd members of your family it's difficult to get creative.

But it's a real beauty nonetheless. (This photo is somewhat enlarged - in real life it's only about 6.5mm long.)

Quedius lucidulus copyright Mark Telfer

Quedius lucidulus courtesy of Mark Telfer

What makes this important is that Q. lucidulus is likely to be a native, albeit a very rare and elusive one. It's not that unusual to unearth new species of beetle here - it happens maybe 3-4 times a year - but the vast majority of these discoveries are either alien introductions or species from Europe spreading their wings, so to speak.

The discovery was made by entomologist Mark Telfer at the Sussex Wildlife Trust's The Mens ancient woodland reserve in the Low Weald. He was there as part of a survey of invertebrates living in deadwood.

The Trust's ecologist, Graeme Lyons, says at first they struggled to find the right trees to put traps under. In the end, they found what Graeme calls an "amazing" fungus-infected beech tree. All the branches had fallen off, it had recently come down and, best of all, it had fallen into the sunlight which accelerated the decay. They had, he says, hit it just at the right time.

Rather than see it as dead wood for the fire, Graeme and Mark saw the tree as uncharted territory potentially teeming with unknown forms of life. During a survey of a neighbouring reserve in 2009, the Trust found 140 species of dead wood beetle and one species thought to be extinct in the UK.

The UK's wildlife is among the most studied in the world: in the past few months alone a new moth species was formally accepted as a UK resident, a bat species new to the UK was discovered, and a new species of caddisfly. Our sea life is the most well known, with 36,000 marine species so far recorded. If you keep your eyes peeled, you too might see something special.

As Mark Telfer says on his blog: "My personal natural history quest... has so far resulted in me seeing 5,962 species in Britain and Ireland."

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