Taxonomists discover new subspecies of one of the world's largest beetles

BUY YOUR TICKETS ONLINE

TICKETS !

 

Guidelines to follow during your visit

The holotype of Megasoma actaeon johannae, one of the largest beetles in the world!
23/07/2021
Taxonomists discover new subspecies of one of the world's largest beetles
post by
Siska Van Parys

Meet Megasoma actaeon johannae, one of the largest beetles in the world! This mysterious giga beetle was only recently described by one of our Citizen Science colleagues. Believe it or not, planet Earth still holds a great deal of secrets for us!

Megasoma actaeon johannae is a subspecies of one of the largest beetle species in the world. The new subspecies was discovered and described using a specimen from our collections. We possess the holotype (i.e., the reference model) and numerous paratypes of this imposing creature!

Elephant beetle

It is already impressive by its dimensions alone. As its name indicates (Megasoma, literally "with a large body" in Greek), the Megasoma actaeon johannae, with its 14cm, is one of the five largest beetles in the world, along with the Goliath beetle (over 11cm) and the Hercules dynast (almost 17cm), among others. Megasoma beetles are sometimes also called elephant beetles because they are so large and heavy: they can weigh more than 150 grams!

The male beetles also impress by their horn, which can reach almost 4cm in length. This allows them to assert their dominance when fighting over females. They can even use it to lift their opponent up and knock him down! This horn explains its second name "actaeon": in mythology, Actaeon was turned into a deer as punishment for watching Diana bathe, and thus received horns. Its third name is dedicated to the wife of one of the scientists who described the beetle, Johanna.

Live fast, die young

Megasoma actaeon johannae is mostly found in South America: in northern Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Ecuador.... But if you come across one, don't panic! Despite its size and impressive appearance, it feeds exclusively on rotten fruit and sap.

The Megasoma actaeon johannae differs from its close cousin, the Megasoma actaeon actaeon, in that it remains shiny and silky black even after death, rather than fading. It lives for an average of only 6 months in adult form (called an imago) after spending more than two years as a larva... live fast, die young!

 

Van Meenen, J., & Schouteet, T. (2018). A new subspecies and a new individual form of Megasoma Kirby, 1825 of Peru (Coleopteraé, Scarabaeidae, Dynastinae), Lambillionea, CXVIII(2):125-138.

Subscribe to Royal belgian Institute for natural Sciences News
Go to top