One of the smallest insects I saw during my latest visit to La Reserva Ecológica Costanera Sur (Buenos Aires, Argentina) was this tiny leaf beetle (family Chrysomelidae) feeding in the flower of a malvaceous plant that I take to be Abutilon pauciflorum. At only ~4 mm in length, it could have easily gone unnoticed had I not noticed there were several feeding in flowers in a small, localized area. The best I could come up with for an ID was subfamily Chrysomelinae due to their globular shape, although the small size didn’t seem right. Turns out I’d forgotten to consider the Eumolpinae, which also contains globular species that are usually much smaller than those in the Chrysomelinae, and according to leaf beetle specialists Shawn Clark and Ed Riley this is likely a member Spintherophyta or a closely related genus.
Although there are only four species of Spintherophyta in North America (Schultz 1976), and of those only S. globosa is widespread and commonly encountered, the diversity of the genus explodes in the Neotropics (Blackwelder 1946 lists 71 species). Accordingly, neither Shawn nor Ed were brave enough to venture a guess as to which species this might represent. I should probably defer to their good sense, but part of me wonders if that coppery pronotum might suggest S. cupricollis—one of only two species in the genus listed by Blackwelder (1946) for Argentina.
Blackwelder, R.E. 1946. Checklist of the coleopterous insects of Mexico, Central America, the West Indies, and South America. Bulletin of the U. S. National Museum 185:551-1492.
Schultz, W. T. 1976. Review of the genus Spintherophyta (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae) in North America north of Mexico. Annals of the Entomological Society of America 69(5):877–881.
Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2012