The beetles of the Dutch Caribbean
Last December, a beetle catalogue for the Dutch Caribbean was published. This voluminous paper provides the first critical review of the beetle species reported for the islands. Only about a fifth of the species which are likely to be present on Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao, Saba, St. Eustatius and St. Maarten are currently known. This leaves much to be discovered about the islands’ beetle fauna.
In December 2020, a beetle catalogue for the Dutch Caribbean was published in the Dutch entomological journal Tijdschrift voor Entomologie. This voluminous paper, comprising 120 pages, provides the first critical review of the beetle species reported from the Dutch Caribbean up to 2020 as well as a history of beetle collecting, short biographies of the collectors who have been active on the islands, and a comprehensive Caribbean beetle bibliography. The need for an updated catalogue was inspired by the Naturalis St. Eustatius Scientific Terrestrial Expedition of 2015 (see BioNews 29).
Firefly (Aspisoma ignitum). Photo: Marijke Kanters
Beetles make up a considerable part of the Caribbean insect fauna but relatively little is known about them. The study of Caribbean beetles is seriously hampered by a big gap in taxonomic knowledge and a shortage of trained taxonomists for the region. Often, this makes it impossible to identify specimens to species or even genus level. The only relatively well-studied groups comprise the mostly larger-bodied members of families such as ground beetles (Carabidae), scarab beetles (Scarabaeidae), darkling beetles (Tenebrionidae), longhorn beetles (Cerambycidae) and more recently the, much smaller-bodied, members of the subfamily bark beetles (Curculionidae: Scolytinae). Modern revisions and keys to identify species from most other families are lacking.
The number of beetle species currently known from the various islands (Aruba: 50, Bonaire: 38, Curaçao: 131, Saba: 89, St. Eustatius: 96 and St. Maarten: 65) in comparison with the estimated number of species likely to be found on the islands (Aruba: 975, Bonaire: 1125, Curaçao: 1280, Saba: 440, St. Eustatius: 520 and St. Maarten: 785) illustrates the fact that there is still a lot more to discover about the islands’ beetle fauna.
Lady beetle (Cycloneda sanguinea). Photo: Jan-Joost Mekkes.
The “catalogue of the Coleoptera of the Dutch Antilles” is meant to serve as a starting point for further systematic and taxonomic research on the beetles of the Dutch Caribbean, for instance, the identification of the beetles collected during several recent visits to the islands. These include among others the extensive beetle collection from the 2015 St. Eustatius Scientific Terrestrial Expedition (in prep.), the beetles collected on St. Eustatius in 2020 during a trip by J.-J. Mekkes (in press), those collected on Saba in 2008 and 2009 by B.A. & M.J. Richardson and in 2019 and 2020 by M. Boeken (submitted) and some older material collected on Curaçao by C. van de Sande in 1975-76 (in prep.).
The “catalogue of the Coleoptera of the Dutch Antilles” was published “open access” and can be downloaded for free by all those interested from the website of Tijdschrift voor Entomologie. It can also be found on the Dutch Caribbean Biodiversity Database.
Report your sightings
Species reports by local communities and tourists are invaluable for nature conservation efforts to help increase public awareness and overall species protection. Besides, DCNA, Observation International and Naturalis Biodiversity Center are working together to develop on automated species identification app for your phone. Your uploaded photos are of great value to make this possible. For questions, please contact research@DCNAnature.org
Colijn, E.O. & J.-J. Mekkes 2021. Results of an entomological collecting trip to St. Eustatius. Coleoptera. Entomologische Berichten 81 (4): 175-183.
Colijn, E.O., K.K. Beentjes, R. Butôt, J.A. Miller, J.T. Smit, A.J. de Winter & B.B. van der Hoorn 2020. A catalogue of the Coleoptera of the Dutch Antilles. Tijdschrift voor Entomologie 162 (2-3): 67-186.
Colijn, E.O., M. Boeken, B.A. Richardson & M.J. Richardson 2021. Two small beetle collections from Saba (Coleoptera). Entomologische Berichten (submitted)
Article published in BioNews 45