Europe’s smallest beetle found in Denmark

December 10, 2012 - 06:14

Researchers have just found the first Danish specimens of Europe’s smallest beetle. It’s not much wider than a human hair.

If you want to find this beetle, you need to bring back samples of fresh mushrooms and leave them indoors for a few hours. Then you can examine them under the microscope – with at least 15x magnification.
Jan Pedersen

Two researchers from the Natural History Museum of Denmark have found Europe’s smallest beetle in Denmark.

The little creature, known as Baranowskiella ehnstromi, has a length of only 0.45 mm.

Fungi expert Christian Lange and beetle expert Jan Pedersen tracked down the little creature in three different locations in Denmark.

”We basically know very little about this beetle. It spends its entire life, from birth to adulthood, on a fungus, but we don’t know how old it gets or how long it takes to develop,” says Jan Pedersen, assistant curator at the Zoological Museum at the Natural Museum of Denmark.

Fungi atlas provided the clues

The tiny beetle was not easy to find. Luckily, the researchers knew that it lives on a particular fungus, known as Phellinus conchatus.

Using the Danish fungi atlas, they managed to track down the little creature, which was first discovered in Sweden in 1989.

The Phellinus conchatus fungus, which grows on withered branches, is actually quite common in Denmark. And the researchers reckon that the newly discovered beetle might be common too.

Blink and you’ll miss it

The Baranowskiella ehnstromi has so far only been spotted in three Danish locations.

“If you want to find this beetle, you need to bring back samples of fresh mushrooms and leave them indoors for a few hours. Then you can examine them under the microscope – with at least 15x magnification,” says Pedersen.

“If the animal is there, you’ll see it crawling rapidly around the fungal pores or sit with most of its body buried in the pores, so that only the tip of its hind part sticks out.”

Besides Denmark, the beetle has also been found in Sweden, Norway and Finland. However, the researchers behind the find in Denmark believe that the beetle can most likely been found wherever the Phellinus conchatus fungus grows.

“Outside of Scandinavia, the fungus has also been found in Central Europe, for instance in Austria and Switzerland. It can probably also be found to the east in Russia,” says Pedersen.

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Read the Danish version of this article at videnskab.dk

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Translated by
Dann Vinther

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