Center for Systematic Entomology, Gainesville, Florida


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Skelley PE, Clavijo-Bustos J, Keller O. 2022. Extinct or extant? A new species of Termitodius Wasmann, 1894, (Coleoptera: Scarabaeidae: Aphodiinae: Rhyparini) with a short review of the genus. Insecta Mundi 0915: 1–14.


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A new species of Termitodius Wasmann (Coleoptera: Scarabaeidae: Aphodiinae: Rhyparini) is de­scribed from Colombia, Termitodius woodruffi Skelley, Clavijo-Bustos, and Keller, new species. This species is both extant and abundantly preserved in copal. The genus Termitodius is reviewed with a key and brief accounts to all species.

Una nueva especie de Termitodius Wasmann (Coleoptera: Scarabaeidae: Aphodiinae: Rhyparini) es descrita de Colombia, Termitodius woodruffi Skelley, Clavijo-Bustos, y Keller, nueva especie. Esta especie es existente y abundantemente preservada en copal. El género Termitodius es revisado con una clave y reseñas breves para todas las especies.

The pantropical tribe Rhyparini is represented in the Neotropical region by six genera and 25 species. Of these six genera, only one genus, Rhyparus Westwood, is distributed both in the eastern and western hemispheres, the remaining five are exclusively from America (Schoolmeesters 2021; Skelley 2021a, b). The genus Termitodius Wasmann was described in 1894 for a new species from Venezuela (Wasmann 1894). Since then, the only taxo­nomic treatments were the description of two new species 40 years ago (Reyes-Castillo and Martínez 1979) and its generic delimitation (Skelley 2007).

Though more than 30 fossil species of Aphodiinae are known from the Mesozoic and Tertiary period of the Cenozoic Era, none belong to the tribe Rhyparini nor to the Neotropical region (Krell 2007). Most of the described Neotropical Scarabaeoidea fossils are preserved in amber from the Dominican Republic (e.g., Ratcliffe and Ocampo 2001; Ocampo 2002, 2006; Woodruff 2009; Poinar 2014). Members of the Rhyparini have been documented in Dominican amber (Wu 1996; Poinar and Poinar 1999; Krell 2007) that were recently described (Skelley 2021a, b). Other insects in the New World were described from more recent resin deposits like Colom­bian copal. However, the age of Colombian pieces lack consensus, with the current trend attributing it to the Cenozoic quaternary period (e.g., Hinojosa-Díaz and Engel 2007; Azar et al. 2009; Penney et al. 2013a; Poinar et al. 2017). Also, it is curious that many described species from copal inclusions are considered to be extant species, yet remain to be discovered as living specimens (Penney et al. 2013b).

The earliest published report that identifies the Colombian copal specimens as Termitodius is by Penney and Green (2011), who called it a “subfossil”. However, Robert Woodruff began working on this new species in the early 2000s, but declining health and other events forced the project to be postponed. After deciding to describe this species to honor Woodruff, PES studied available modern specimens to document unreported specimens of all species in this rare genus. He borrowed a specimen identified by P. Reyes as “T. coronatus” from Colombia, that was later identified as a new species by O. L. Cartwright. Close examination found it to be most similar to the copal specimens in morphology and distribution, and not T. coronatus. This led to the following generic review and species description.