Name a Christmas beetle this festive season for your chance to achieve ecological immortality.
Thursday 1 December, Sydney, Australia: Whether you’re a beetle enthusiast, or just an occasional bug spotter, this Christmas the Australian Museum (AM) is calling on NSW residents to give common names to nine Christmas beetles located in NSW.
“There are twelve Christmas beetles found in the Sydney region, however only three have common names - the King, Queen and Washerwoman Christmas beetles,” Australian Museum entomologist Dr Chris Reid, said.
The AM is running a competition for NSW residents to give common names to the remaining nine, which will feature in a new species identification app developed by Dr Reid and fellow AM entomologist Mike Burleigh.
Common names – unlike the Latin scientific names used by scientists to identify species – are part of the everyday lexicon, and whatever is chosen will exist for generations to come. “Giving a Christmas beetle a clever and creative name in honour of a loved one would be the perfect Christmas gift,” Burleigh said.
“These nine beetles already have scientific Latin names, but by giving them colourful and memorable common names, you are helping people to raise the profile of the beetles and encourage residents to protect them – which our new identification app will be able to help with.”
The brightly coloured Christmas beetle is part of the Scarab Beetle family, of which there are 35 species in Australia and around 12 that live in the Sydney region.
While Christmas beetles are common in rural areas, Dr Reid said they have become an increasingly rare sight in the city in the past 15 years, with a decline in their numbers attributed to increased urbanisation and fewer gum trees, which the beetles feed on.
“Invertebrates make up the majority of biodiversity and are the key to healthy ecosystems, yet many people don’t perceive them as anything more than ‘problem pests’,” Dr Reid said. “Over 99% of all animal species are invertebrates. They have an incredible diversity of more than 30 major animal groups and over 15 million species and they can tell us much about the environments in which they make their homes.”
Entries into the Christmas beetle naming competition will be judged by a panel consisting of Dr Reid, Australian Museum CEO & Director Kim McKay AO and celebrity gardener Costa Georgiadis.
In addition to their common name being included in the app, winners will also receive a 12 month membership with the AM. Entries close midnight Sunday 18 December, with the winning names announced the week before Christmas.
“Get those creative juices flowing and give imaginative common names to nine currently un-named Australian Christmas beetles and live on in ecological perpetuity,” said Dr Reid.
Claire Vince, Media Advisor, Australian Museum
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