Scientists Discover New Bug Species Because Of Its Weird Dick

The new species (Photo: DiGirolmo et al, Eur. Journal of Entomology)

A nearly 500-acre cemetery cuts through west Brooklyn, featuring rolling hills that produce some of the city’s most spectacular vistas and a surprising variety of plant and animal diversity. Here, scientists have recently discovered an entirely new species of beetle based on its weird-shaped dick.

Though perhaps most famous for its rats, New York is loaded with strange wildlife, as well as with strange dicks. But this new beetle isn’t native to the United States — and might spell trouble for some of the city’s trees.

Researchers first collected specimens of this unnamed beetle from August 2017 to 2018 as part of a program that monitors trees harmed by wood-boring insects in Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery, which is located not far from an international port, as insects such as the emerald ash borer have invaded the United States and decimated ash trees.

The new beetle was found in a non-native European beech tree in the cemetery, according to the paper published in the European Journal of Entomology, and is likely another foreign invader.

The tree where the new species was found, with a bakery I visit frequently in the background (Photo: DiGirolmo et al, Eur. Journal of Entomology)

The researchers could tell that this teeny new beetle belonged to the same vast Agrilus genus as the emerald ash borer, according to the paper. But when scientists compared it to the 1500 Agrilus specimens in Czech University of Life Sciences researcher Eduard Jendek’s collection, it didn’t match any of them. The dick was all wrong.

DNA testing later confirmed that researchers were looking at a new species. It doesn’t have a name yet, so for now you can call it Agrilus sp. 9895. Or “you over there with the weird dick”.

Like the invasive emerald ash borer, Agrilus sp. 9895 was found boring a tiny hole in a tree. Wood-boring bugs have been an ecological catastrophe for the city, perhaps one of the most expensive ecological invasions into North America to date, according to the paper.

Damage caused by the unnamed species (Photo: DiGirolmo et al, Eur. Journal of Entomology)

So, how did the weird-dicked bug get here? Like the other Agrilus bugs, it likely arrived onboard human transportation like a boat.

Confusing the researchers, no bugs from the group of species are known to develop on beech trees. Perhaps Agrilus sp. 9895 feeds on beech trees in its native range but just hasn’t been observed doing so yet, or maybe it just decided to feast on this tree once it arrived in New York. There’s more work yet to be done before researchers know how much to worry about the new species.

It might surprise you to hear of scientists discovering a new species in New York City, even if it marks a potentially unwelcome discovery. But for those out of the know, the city hosts a variety of important wildlife habitats for birds, bugs and even a variety of surprising mammals, not all of them as sucky as a nameless bug with a weird dick.

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