I recently received a batch of jewel beetles from Enrico Ruzzier of Italy. It was an impressive sending (as is any sending of jewel beetles!) collected from diverse parts of the world, but what really caught my eye were two specimens he had collected earlier this year in Jamaica—both representing species in the genus Chrysobothris. Most members of this genus are moderate-sized in relation to other species in the family, but at only 5 and 6 mm in length the two specimens I received are downright tiny. They also are extraordinarily pretty compared to most species in the genus by virtue of their striking patterns of metallic green, red, and blue to violaceous colors! Even more interesting, however, was their West Indian provenance. This “biodiversity hotspot” enjoys not only high species diversity but also high species endemism as a result of the 7,000+ islands that comprise it. This is especially true for Jamaica, where my records indicate that 64% of the known jewel beetle fauna (16 of 25 species) occurs nowhere else.
One of the specimens was easily identifiable as Chrysobothris quadrimaculata (Fabricius, 1776) because of the transverse green, violaceous, and reddish-cupreous bands on the pronotum and metallic green “cross” on the elytra separating four large violaceous spots, each with a reddish-cupreous central area (Fisher 1925). This species has so far been found only in Jamaica and appears to be uncommon in collections. As far as I can tell, the only illustration of the species is a 224-year old drawing appearing in Olivier (1790)¹. Considering this and the extraordinary beauty of this little beetle, it seems appropriate to post a photo here (sent to me by Enrico in his initial query regarding its identity).
¹ This early landmark taxonomic publication is occasionally offered for sale by rare book dealers at asking prices that run in the thousands of dollars! Fortunately, the National Library of France has made a pdf of the book available for free download.
The second specimen, even smaller but no less pretty than the first, has defied all attempts at identification. It does not key out in Fisher (1925) and clearly differs from the four species and one subspecies known to occur in Jamaica (all of which are endemic). Further comparison with descriptions of all known West Indian species also fails to turn up a match. Considering this and the fact that many West Indian Chrysobothris seem to be quite rare in general (Maier & Ivie 2012), I would not be surprised if this specimen turns out to represent yet another (and as yet undescribed) endemic species for Jamaica. I am hopeful (although not optimistic) that posting a photo here (also provided by Enrico Ruzzier) will prompt those with West Indian material in their collections to examine their holdings and see if any additional specimens can be located.
Maier, C. A. & M. A. Ivie. 2013. New species and records of Chrysobothris Eschscholtz (Coleoptera: Buprestidae) from Montserrat, Saba, and Anguilla, with a key to the Chrysobothris thoracica species-group in the West Indies. The Coleopterists Bulletin 67(2):81–88 [BioOne].
Olivier, A. G. 1790. Entomologie, ou histoire naturelle des insectes, avec leurs caractères génériques et spécifiques, leur description, leur synonymie, et leur figure enluminée. Coléoptères. Tome 2, genera 9–34 (32. Bupreste), pp. 1–485, 63 plates, Baudouin, Paris [Bibliothèque nationale de France].
© Ted C. MacRae 2014