Tending to the neglected diversity of beetles and Darwin wasps in Southwest China's “Lost World”

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Sagra femorata, Yunnan Province, China. Photo 2016 jianglei via iNaturalist Research-grade Observations, licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0.

Beetles (Coleoptera) and Darwin wasps (Ichneumonidae) are both key players in major ecological processes such as decomposition, secondary seed dispersal and predation (parasitism). But taxonomic information and geographic distributions of both insect orders are both underrepresented when compared with the other insects in China's Yunnan Province, a hotspot of eastern Himalayan biodiversity. This project will increase available taxonomic and ecological information on these understudied and superdiverse groups of insects.

Numerous ecological and taxonomic studies have been conducted on insects along the elevational gradients in tropical, subtropical, and subalpine forests of Yunnan Province, yet these data have not been fully mobilized to be publicly available. The project team will prepare sampling-event data and checklists for the region's beetles and Darwin wasps, identifying previously collected specimens into genus or into species and employing DNA barcoding for newly collected specimens.

Disseminating knowledge from this first effort to make such data available will serve to demonstrate the significance of mobilizing data from Yunnan Province, support further taxonomic, conservation and ecological studies, and strengthen education and training programmes for high school, graduate, and post-graduate students.

Project progess

In November 2021 the project held the planned workshop on “Beetle taxonomy, sequencing and ecology”, which was incorporated with the Advanced Field Course in Ecology and Conservation-XTBG.

The project has carried out the planned Dung Beetle survey and collected specimens for the project. Two members of the project team also joined the BIFA capacity building workshop, for which one participant received certification.

By midterm reporting the project has published the dataset “Coleoptera (beetles) from tropical forest (Bubeng), Yunnan, China” and carried out sample sorting and taxonomic identification using morphology. It has also begun work towards digitizing other data for both beetles (Coleoptera, Scarabaeidae and other families) and Darwin wasps (Hymenoptera, Ichneumonidae) from Yunnan province of China, which includes imaging, identification, data entry and DNA sequencing.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and related travel restrictions, the project has encountered delays in implementing work to finalize identification of specimens. The project team continues to work however on using alternative methods to those originally planned to help overcome this issue. It has also adapted from in-person meetings to online meetings where necessary.

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Duration
1 September 2021 - 28 February 2023
Project identifier
BIFA6_006
Partners
Contact details

Thilina Nimalrathna
Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden, CAS Key Laboratory of Tropical Forest Ecology
Chinese Academy of Sciences
666303 Menglun
China