Brazil Bugs #3 – Gorgulho Enorme!

The second night at the hotel on the outskirts of Campinas (São Paulo, Brazil), I found this enormous weevil laying on the ground underneath some windows.  It was dead but completely relaxed and in perfect shape.  I wondered if it had been attracted to lights in the window the previous evening and flown there as its “last hurrah.”  This beast of a weevil – measuring a good 30mm from the tip of the snout to the apex of the elytra – immediately brought to my mind giant palm weevils of the genus Rhynchophorus (Coleoptera: Curculionidae).  I looked around and saw palm trees everywhere, so I figured that must be what it was.  I picked up one of the dead fronds from under a nearby palm tree and placed the weevil on the stem for a few photographs.  Given it’s freshness, it was quite easy to place in a lifelike pose, and I placed the stick in various positions to get a few different backgrounds.  As I was shooting, I noticed another, smaller, weevil on the ground near where I had found the first one – also dead and fresh.  Considering that Rhynchophorus often reaches pest status on palms, this further confirmed the ID in my mind.

Once back in the hotel room I smugly entered “giant palm weevil” into Google to bring up some images and confirm my ID (and also make sure my photos were at least on par with published images).  When the images came up, I saw immediately that my weevil was not a giant palm weevil at all.  While the South American species (R. palmarum) is black, the pronotum and elytra are much smoother and distinctly striate.  I don’t know if this weevil is a member of the same subfamily (Rhychophorinae) as the giant palm weevils, but it certainly not a member of that genus.  Still, considering its large size and distinctive appearance, I remained confident that an ID would come quickly.  Sadly, this has not proven to be the case – no search term I’ve tried involving the term “giant black weevil Brazil” or its many variations brings up anything remotely similar.  So, after spending much more time trying to identify this beetle than I should have, I leave it in the hands of my readers in the hopes that one of you will recognize it and provide a name.  Only when we have a name will it be possible to know something more about how this beetle lives (and if my placing it on a dead palm frond was a truly artificial setup).

Photo Details: Canon 50D w/ 100mm macro lens (ISO 100, 1/200 sec, f/16-18), Canon MT-24EX flash w/ oversized DIY concave diffuser. Typical post-processing (levels, minor cropping, unsharp mask).

Update 01/24/11: Thanks to Henry Hespenheide (via Facebook) and Art Evans, who clued me in to the genus Homalinotus (subfamily Cholinae).  I found a key to the 21 known species of this exclusively Neotropical genus (Vaurie 1973) and consider this individual to represent H. coriaceus – broca do cacho do coqueiro (black coconut bunch weevil).  This species breeds in the stems of old leaves of several native palms; however, it has adapted to the introduced coconut palm and apparently become a limiting factor in the commercial production of coconuts.  Thus, I can breathe easy now knowing that my photographs of this individual on the stem of a dead palm frond represent an entirely natural setting.

REFERENCE:

Vaurie, P.  1973.  The weevil genera Homalinotus and Ozopherus of the Neotropical Cholinae (Coleoptera, Curculionidae).  Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History 152(1):1–49.

Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2011

About Ted C. MacRae

Ted C. MacRae is a research entomologist by vocation and beetle taxonomist by avocation. Areas of expertise in the latter include worldwide jewel beetles (Buprestidae) and North American longhorned beetles (Cerambycidae). More recent work has focused on North American tiger beetles (Cicindelidae) and their distribution, ecology, and conservation.
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20 Responses to Brazil Bugs #3 – Gorgulho Enorme!

  1. I’m enjoying your journey, Ted. What stunning photos!

  2. I believe that your weevil is in the genus Homalinotus.

  3. Kurt says:

    Nice shots Ted. Great looking weevil. I consider it size “normal” for Malaysian standard:D. Certainly didn’t look dead at all.

  4. Tim Eisele says:

    Ted, I am inclined to agree with Kurt. Insects that those of us from the temperate regions regard as “Giant” look to be middle-sized at best once you get into the tropics. I suspect that the only reason the Giant Palm Weevil got that name was because it occurs in Florida, where a lot of the human inhabitants didn’t grow up there and aren’t really accustomed to real tropical insects. Maybe trying the search again without “Giant” in the string would help.

    • Your point is well taken. Apparently many members of the Cholinae and Rhynchophorinae can reach upwards of 50+mm in length – that’s some serious chitin!

      I went back and Goggled all sorts of variations on the (now known) common name in both English and Portuguese without success – the only search term I’ve found that works is the actual genus name (which does bring up a stunning “white box” photo of this species on Flickr).

  5. James C. Trager says:

    Gorgulho is one of my favorite Portuguese words, bubbly-(borbulhoso)-sounding, comical, and etymologically fascinating.

  6. Swellbugs says:

    Ted, thanks for posting these. I hope you stay in Brazil for a while longer!

    • Thanks, Sam – glad you like them. I’m still in Brazil (leave tomorrow night), but this week has been busy with no chance to take many photographs. I do, however, still have lots of photos to share from last week and this past weekend.

  7. Marcio Tavares says:

    Hi Ted,
    Congratulation for you Blog! Nice! or Muito bom!
    Rhynchophorus can (in some conditions) attacked sugarcane too, but is not very important…
    Best regards (abraços),
    Marcio

    • Hi Marcio,
      Thanks for stopping by!
      Sugarcane has enough important pests already – good thing Rhyncophorus is not important also…
      Muito prazer em conhecê-lo esta semana – eu espero ver a vocé novamente em breve!!!
      Abraços,
      Ted

  8. Pingback: An Inordinate Fondness #13 « The Dispersal of Darwin

  9. Pingback: Two Weevils « 6legs2many

  10. TED: encontre el mismo en un cocotero en Brasil–BUZIOS– y otro en mi jardin en Olivos prov de BS AS ARGENTINA AL PIE DE MI PALMERA PINDO hasta la fecha todas las busquedas eran infructuosas en internet ahora con este dato tengo una referencia cierta
    saludos
    Dr Carlos
    Marzano

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