Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Macropogon testaceipennis

Here's a beetle you don't see every day. It doesn't have a common name. In fact the family it belongs to doesn't even have a common name that many people recognize. To the scientific community this insect is known as Macropogon testaceipennis and it belongs to the family Artematopodidae. It is known primarily from the Sierra Nevada of California.

Let me put this in a little more perspective. Many common insects are known, at the species level, by a non-Latin name. The monarch butterfly comes readily to mind as does the Japanese beetle or the common green darner (a dragonfly). Many insect watchers are also familiar with the fiery searcher (a big metallic green ground beetle) or the green June beetle (a flighty scarab that likes orchards and comes to lights). Most insects, however, don't have a common name but the family they belong to does. Some examples of family group names are: lady bird beetles (family Coccinellidae), stink bugs (Pentatomidae), click beetles (Elateridae). This works, even though many of us don't recognize individual species in these groups, because we do recognize the overall category - and we have seen species that belong to these families.

But some families don't have these kinds of names. These families tend to be poorly known and have fewer species. The family Artematopodidae is one of these families. I took this picture last June above Dinkey Creek Campground (in Fresno County, California) at an elevation around 7,000 feet. I recognized the obscure beetle at the family level right away but it took me several months to figure out what species it was. The pale coloring on the "shoulders" (the elytral humeral angles) was the troubling part. It wasn't until last month while going through the California State Collection of Arthropods that I noticed a unit tray containing specimens ranging in color from completely pale elytra to completely dark elytra with several individuals having the abbreviated coloring like in this image.

I have no idea what kind of sedge it was on but the area where I found it is a spare rocky riparian landscape with scattered junipers and manzanita. To the few locals who know about it, this is the place called Granite Pools. It's not real easy to get to but hardy hikers manage just fine. The pools are great for swimming once the heavy spring run-off is over. In June when I took this picture there was too much water and swimming wasn't possible yet. If you look close you can see a faint rainbow formed in the cold mountain spray above the tumbling creek.


Anonymous said...

Artematopodidae - that's a new one on me! BugGuide calls these "soft-bodied plant beetles".

Granite Pools looks like a spectacular place.

A great post to submit to "An Inordinate Fondness" eh? (Bug Girl is hosting this month.)

Sam Wells said...

Thanks Ted, I clarified the comment about the family common name. I guess that's one I've got to learn.