Dr Michael Caterino and Dr Alexey Tishechkin, both from the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, have described 85 new species in the genus Baconia, mainly from North and South America.
“Although the genus Baconia was originally named in honor of Francis Bacon the Elizabethan philosopher, Francis Bacon the experimental artist would also be a fitting namesake for these fantastic beetles,” said Dr Caterino, who is the first author of the paper in the open-access journal ZooKeys.
While many groups of beetles are known for spectacular color patterns, they are rare and little-appreciated in the clown beetle family, Histeridae.
“Even beetle specialists are amazed by the fantastic colors of Baconia,” Dr Caterino said.
What purposes the colors may serve, however, remains a mystery.
“In natural history terms, the species of Baconia aren’t very different from several other groups of clown beetles with similar habits, but much duller coloration.”
Their beautiful bodies conceal a vicious disposition, as the species are mostly believed to stalk and eat wood-boring beetles and their larvae. Some are even drawn to pheromones of bark beetles, using their own seductive odors against them. The flattened bodies of many of the species let them pursue their prey deep under the bark of recently killed trees.
That the little jewels remained hidden for so long may be partly attributed to their extreme rarity.
Bibliographic information: Caterino MS, Tishechkin AK. 2013. A systematic revision of Baconia Lewis (Coleoptera, Histeridae, Exosternini). ZooKeys 343: 1 – 297; doi: 10.3897/zookeys.343.5744