July 23 (UPI) — Scientists have discovered a new species of bioluminescent click beetle in the subtropical forests of southwest China. Researchers described the new species this week in the journal ZooKeys.
There are some 10,000 species in the click beetle family, Elateridae, but only 200 or so are known to emit light — around 2 percent. Thanks to researchers in China, the list of bioluminescent click beetle species is now a bit longer.
The positioning of the light source varies among glowing click beetles, all of which boast three thoracic segments. Many species emit light from the front segment. Some emit light from the both of the back two segments. Only a few emit light solely from the hind segment.
“In 2017, during an expedition to the western Yunnan in China, we discovered a dusk-active bioluminescent click beetle with a single luminous organ on the abdomen,” lead researcher Wen-Xuan Bi, a beetle expert with the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said in a news release.
The new species, Sinopyrophorus schimmeli, is the first bioluminescent click beetle discovered in Asia. Researchers conducted a morphological and molecular analyses of the new species to determine its relationship to other species in the Elateridae family.
“The morphological investigation in combination with the molecular analysis based on 16 genes showed that our taxon is not only a new species in a new genus, but that it also represents a completely new subfamily of click beetles,” study co-author Xue-Yan Li said. “We chose the name Sinopyrophorus for the new genus, and the new subfamily is called Sinopyrophorinae.”
The new research suggests the new species is part of a unique lineage of bioluminescent click beetles, only distantly related to other light-emitting click beetles. In other words, there are likely more Asian bioluminescent click beetle species waiting to be discovered.