New Leaf Beetle Species Reside in Holes Created by Larger Beetles

First Posted: Sep 30, 2013 04:02 AM EDT

Two new species of leaf beetles have been discovered by Indian entomologists, which modify holes in leaves created by the other beetles and use it as shelter.

Described in the journal Zookeys, this new species, slightly larger than the size of a pin head, have an intelligent method of utilizing holes created by larger leaf feeding beetles on their host trees as shelters.

The two  newly discovered Southern Indian species are named after their host tree that is common in the Western Ghats Mountains, namely Orthaltica Eugenia and Orthaltica Terminalia.

Among the adult leaf beetles builders are rare but young ones of certain species construct a defensive shelter using their own feces. These two closely related species of the tiny Southern Indian leaf beetle have devised a technique to modify low cost shelters. They construct hideouts called 'leaf hole shelters' by using the artificially made holes.

Since the existing holes on the leaves did not match the requirements of the beetles, these species  remodeled the holes by using their own fecal pellets. This is the first time that an adult leaf beetle has been observed using feces for construction of shelters.

"In the case of the triangular artificial leaf-holes, beetles had a distinct preference for the narrow vertex of the triangle, above its wider base. This may be because their size allowed them to easily fit inside the narrow apical angle," says the study, titled "First record of leaf-hole shelters used and modified by leaf beetles (Coleoptera, Chrysomelidae), with descriptions of two new Orthaltica Crotch species from southern India," according to the press release.

It takes a lot of effort and hard work to build a shelter and animals generally utilize techniques that involve less effort and more benefits. Ants, wasps, birds, termites and spiders, are also known for building effective shelters. These species of beetles mimic the woodpeckers that sometimes nest in the already existing cavities made by primary cavity nesters.

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