These are the 98 new species of Trigonopterus plus T. amphoralis (row 1, 7th from left), a species lost since 1922. (Alexander Riedel)

There's an old story that gets tossed around about evolutionary biologist J.B. Haldane on the origin of what would become one of his favorite phrases. Someone asked him what his studies of the natural world had revealed about the nature of "the creator" if one existed.

Well, Haldane replied: If he exists, he has an inordinate fondness for beetles.

And indeed, the world has an awful lot of beetles. When you ignore bacteria (which are obviously ridiculously diverse), beetles are probably the most diverse kind of life there is. If you stuck your hand into a bag full of one of every plant, fungi, animal and insect species on the planet (ew), you'd probably pull a beetle out.

So it's no surprise that a recent expedition to find new insects in Indonesia was rather fruitful in the beetle department.

All members of the genus Trigonopterus, these beetles hail from Indonesian islands, such as Java and Bali. Museum scientists from Germany and from the Indonesian Research Center of Biology searched the leaf litter of island forests and found 99 members of the genus -- only one of which had previously been discovered.

Many of the species seem to live only in small populations in a single location, the researchers report. Because the beetles are small and can't fly, they very quickly become isolated from other clusters of bugs. So it doesn't take long for those little groups to evolve into completely different species.

The researchers blazed through the process of sequencing the new beetles' DNA. Because a lot of the rainforest in the area is now being eyed as potential farmland, they wanted to do their best to quickly show just how diverse and delicate the beetle population is.

Of course, 98 new species means 98 new names. The researchers named some for color and some for location, a few for body shape and some using Indonesian numbers. But they did indulge in one classic choice: Trigonopterus attenboroughi is named for the famed naturalist David Attenborough, joining a long and diverse list of species dedicated in his honor.


A newly described species was named in honor of Sir David Attenborough, Trigonopterus attenboroughi. (Alexander Riedel)