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The silvery wash of the moon illuminates the invaders in our garden
Marine conservation is about proper management not numbers
Lion killed California intern with one swipe of its paw, coroner reveals
Deer cull would threaten thousands of jobs, say furious gamekeepers
We must kill Bambi: why culling deer is a no-brainer
Five shark species win protection against finning trade
Pangolins under threat as black market trade grows
Should we learn to love eating insects?
Rare Sumatran tiger kills farmer in Indonesia
Where screeching, scarlet macaws enjoy raucous celebrity status
Summer's early birds risk their return from wintering grounds
Mexican monarch butterfly numbers at record low, scientists say
Military three-step as birds drill for food through the late winter snow
Beachcombers to hunt out 'mermaid's purses' to help protect sharks
French troops return to the heart of D-day operations
A landscape bathed in cold brilliance
Birdwatch: Pied-billed grebe
National Wildlife Crime Unit left in funding doubt
86 elephants killed in Chad poaching massacre
Polar bear hunting and migration 'hit by warming climate'
Cloning extinct animals: to hell with frogs!
Spring is in the air and Zoroastrians and hares and pagans. And me
When the icy wind drops, the first hint of warmth can be felt in the sun
Don't let good zoos go extinct
  New to Nature No 100: Eleodes wheeleri
Darkling beetles are a conspicuous part of the insect fauna of many arid regions of the world. In the south-western United States and Mexico, for example, species of the genus Eleodes are commonly seen doing "headstands", putting their faces down and elevating their rear ends to a nearly vertical position. This comical posture is part of the beetles' defence strategy. Flightless and not the fastest runners in the insect world, Eleodes have special glands that secret a noxious chemical mixture to deter would-be predators that is variously exuded as a droplet from the anus or forcibly sprayed over distances of up to two feet.

The last comprehensive monograph on Eleodes was published more than a century ago, in 1909, and the exact number of species remains unknown. A handful of common species are readily identified, but the majority are inaccessible to ecologists, behaviorists, physiologists and others who would find the group contains many ideal model organisms. Fossil evidence suggests that some species of Eleodes responded to shifts in Pleistocene climate 1,500 years sooner than tree species whose pollen has been commonly used to measure the biota's response. It is possible that the right species of Eleodes could be much more sensitive canaries in the mine as we try to detect and monitor climate change. About 250 species of Eleodes have been named but, depending on who you ask, there may be half or twice that number of species once a modern taxonomic revision, now under way, is completed. For collectors the best strategies are setting pitfall traps and head lamping. In the former, a container is buried flush to ground level so that unsuspecting beetles stumble in and cannot escape. In the latter, one simply uses a head lamp or flashlight to scan the desert floor for beetles walking about at night.

In 1975, Professor Charles Triplehorn of Ohio State University described several species from Texas and Arizona that showed the kind of elongation of appendages commonly associated with cave-adapted insects. These and additional species discovered since have been placed in a new subgenus, Caverneleodes. Among several species recently described by Triplehorn, with co-authors Dr Rolf Aalbu of the California Academy of Sciences and Dr Aaron Smith of the International Institute for Species Exploration at Arizona State, was one I am fond of for obvious reasons Eleodes wheeleri.

With a BBC film crew in tow they were working on the documentary, Decade of Discovery Rolf, Aaron and I tracked down this species at Tonto Natural Bridge in central Arizona. These beetles forced me to expand my definition of "cave" with respect to insect habitats. Most of their habitat is in the form of crevices penetrating deep into the rock face of a gorge. Many of the openings are narrow, less than an inch, into which the beetles disappear by day. Regardless of how many of these entrances lead to larger cavities, at the scale of a 10mm beetle, they are indeed caves.

At night they emerge from their caves to scavenge the nearby landscape. It is perhaps because their cave life is only part-time that they are less modified than many full-time cave beetles that tend to have even longer limbs along with complete loss of eyes and pigmentation.

These beetles provide a fascinating glimpse of intermediate adaptation to an intermittent environmental circumstance. I thank my colleagues for the great honour of my namesake, E wheeleri. As Steve Martin's character Navin R Johnson says in the movie The Jerk, this is the kind of spontaneous publicity that makes people famous.
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Stricken seabirds wash up along south coast of England
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Humans that harm animals should be held accountable
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English farmers to be reimbursed for sheep killed in snowstorms
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Australia's koala crisis
Edinburgh's female panda artificially inseminated
Scientists attack government climbdown on marine protection
French fisherman survives crocodile attack in Australia
Oxford college under attack over plans to display live shark at ball
Wood anemones bewitched by the wind
Shark's off at Oxford black-tie ball
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Appetite for caviar could see paddlefish suffer sturgeon's fate
One day last week something other than water came out of the fountain
China loves pork too much
New to Nature No 100: Eleodes wheeleri
Bollywood actors charged in poaching case
Salisbury travel tips: great bustard birdwatching on the plain
Farewell to Nick Boing, Wales's very own superstar sheep
South African minister backs legalisation of rhino horn trade
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Rolling snowballs the size of tumbledriers down the hill
Ranger corruption 'impeding global fight against poaching'
The grey seal's bewhiskered face bore an expression of pure contentment
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Dangerous dogs policy in the wake of the terrible death of Jade Anderson
Red squirrels are intensely curious creatures, and extraordinarily pretty
Freezing weather brings fresh perils for British wildlife
Paparazzi reception for an elusive star of the natural world the otter
Eating fish: it's complicated
Do you think the Grand National is cruel?
Cod and chips could be a load of pollock
Farmers call for help over mounting sheep deaths
Chinese fishing fleet in African waters reports 9% of catch to UN
South African game reserve poisons rhino's horns to prevent poaching
Cats leave their mark on centuries of books
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