Researcher discovers 39 new cockroach species, increasing genus Arenivaga fivefold

Friday, February 28, 2014

Sexual dimorphism in Arenivaga.
Image: Heidi Hopkins.
Arenivaga distribution before and after the study.
Image: Heidi Hopkins.

Heidi Hopkins, a taxonomic researcher and PhD candidate at the Museum of Southwestern Biology of the University of New Mexico, in Albuquerque, New Mexico, United States, conducted a four-year study revising the Arenivaga genus of cockroaches, discovering 39 new species in the genus previously thought to contain 9 species. ZooKeys journal published her findings Wednesday.

The study involved examining over 5200 specimens from universities and collections throughout the United States. The researcher had to dissect the specimens' genitalia to accurately distinguish the species as their external features were often not enough for identification. Hopkins was advised by Dr Kelly Miller during the investigation.

The species are also sexually dimorphic, making morphological association of females with males a challenge. The researcher published a key for adult males in the genus.

The study revealed a vaster distribution area than was previously thought, including additional regions in Southern US and over a half of Mexico.

Hopkins remarked about potential of further studies of the genus and Corydiidae, its parent family, "The extent of the radiation of this genus is quite surprising. These animals have remarkable adaptations that allow them to succeed in some of the harshest places on earth. I suspect that the thorough application of modern collection methods would reveal many more species of Arenivaga across Mexico, and many more species of Corydiidae in the deserts and dry places of the rest of the world."

The study was a first revisit of the genus since 1920 with only one new species discovered since then. The study was supported by grants from American Museum of Natural History, Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, National Museum of Natural History, and University of New Mexico.


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This article features first-hand journalism by Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.