Monday, 19 March 2007

Sometimes good news….

This year did not start out well from a conservation perspective. On a macrocosmo scale, we faced the reality that the Baiji dolphin is likely gone forever after a 40-day search of the Yangtze River failed to locate a single member of the species. In 2006 the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) declared four species of French Polynesian birds as extinct and this year the United States Government realizes the need to classify the polar bear as a threatened species. We have a very rich variety of fauna in the world today, much of which is threatened by human expansion. Sometimes all we hear is bad news.

But today, some good (microcosmo) news: 60 years after the last sighting, a beetle thought to be extinct in the UK has re-emerged in South Devon. The short-necked oil beetle (Meloe brevicollis) was last seen in Chailey Common, Sussex in 1948 and was rediscovered by amateur entomologist, Bob Beckford, during a wildlife survey on National Trust land between Bolt Head and Bolt Tail.

The beetle gets its name from the highly toxic oil secretions it produces when threatened. Adult beetles lay about 1,000 eggs in burrowed soil, which hatch the next spring. The hatchlings crawl up vegetation and where they hitch a ride on the back of a mining bee. They are taken back to the hive, where they devour the bees’ eggs and the protein-rich pollen stores the bee intended as nourishment for its own larvae.

The National Trust says that natural habitat of the beetle and the bee has been decimated by intensive farming practices. The coastal strip of land where the oil beetle was discovered has been managed as ‘low intensity’ farmland, creating a habitat where the beetle could survive undisturbed.

This site will now be studied, monitored and managed to help ensure these creatures flourish.

"The discovery of a beetle that was thought to be extinct for nearly 60 years is an amazing story of survival, particularly for a species with such an interdependent lifecycle. It's great that this oil beetle, with its fascinating lifestyle, has survived against all the odds and is back in business on the south Devon coast."
-David Bullock, Head of Nature Conservation, National Trust

Image and original story from the BBC

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