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  5. The beetles go country: new species named after Austin-based musician

The beetles go country: new species named after Austin-based musician

François Génier © Canadian Museum of Nature.

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Image of Lymantes fowleri

By Alex Quesnel

The connection between beetles and music keeps growing.

A new species of weevil found near Austin, Texas has been named Lymantes fowleri after Kevin Fowler, a country musician based in the area.

The scientist who chose the name is entomologist Dr. Robert Anderson, Director of the Centre for Species Discovery and Change at the Canadian Museum of Nature. A keen country music fan, Anderson considers Fowler an appropriate source for inspiration.

“He’s a proud Texan,” explains Anderson. “He has a big ranch there and is an active outdoorsman. So I thought this was a good opportunity to name something after him.”

While Fowler’s music has enjoyed regional success, it is not widely known at the national level—an appealing quality to Anderson.

“His music is traditional country rather than the modern pop country,” says Anderson. “He never compromised his musical interests to make it commercially acceptable. I admire that – it means he’s putting his roots ahead of popularity.”

© Jose Monzon Sierra

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Robert Anderson looking for weevils in the highlands of Guatemala.

Anderson first collected L. fowleri during his post-doctoral fellowship at Texas A&M University back in 1987. When he moved on to fieldwork in the Hill Country around Austin, he says he “saw this thing all over the place.”

Over his career Anderson says he has named about 120 species of weevil, mostly after places, scientists or physical characteristics of the organism.

None of them have been inspired by entertainment or media personalities—until now.

“This is probably one of the most unique species I’ve named yet,” says Anderson.

At the Centre for Species Discovery and Change, Anderson and his colleagues have many responsibilities. One of them is taxonomy, the science of naming and classifying organisms defined by shared characteristics.

Any new proposal must abide by the International Code for Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN), which sets rules for describing new species and making formal changes or additions to their names. A paper must then be submitted to a scientific journal, where it is peer reviewed by several colleagues.

While the ICZN requires the names be in good taste, if L. fowleri is any indication, scientists are still permitted to use their imagination.

In fact, the discipline might demand this level of creativity, since species diversity is higher in insects than any other group.

“New species of insects are being discovered and named on a regular basis,” explains Anderson. “I think they’ve named about one million so far, but estimates are as high as 6 to 20 million total different species out there.” There are over 60, 000 known species of weevil alone.

Anderson’s choice to name this particular weevil after Kevin Fowler has been approved by the musician’s management team, Triple 8 Management.

But what do Anderson’s fellow scientists think of it?

“A friend of mine said that’s a cheap way to get free tickets,” Anderson jokes. “I told him I’m hoping for backstage passes!”

About Lymantes fowleri

The scientific paper describing Lymantes fowleri was published March 18, 2016 in The Coleopterists Bulletin. This species of weevil lives in the leaf litter and soil of patches of hardwood forest in the Hill Country of central Texas. Lymantes fowleri is about 3-4 mm in length, shiny brown in color and has very tiny eyes represented by about 4 or 5 facets (lenses) in a small row at the base of the snout.  It is closely related to Lymantes nadineae, a similar but fully blind species that lives in caves around Austin and San Antonio, Texas.