Ecological and Environmental Change Research Group

Bark beetle biodiversity

Lawrence Kirkendall


A man holding a large dead palm frond to collect weevils
Collecting weevils
Lawrence Kirkendall

Contributing to understanding patterns of tropical arthropod biodiversity through taxonomy

What factors determine species distributions and species richness of Scolytinae in Central American forests?  Scolytinae, a subfamily of weevils known as “bark beetles”, breed in tunnel systems in dead wood. Bark beetles are ecologically and often economically important forest insects which vary enormously in their ecology and behavior.

Taxonomy is the invisible backbone of biology, and fundamental to understanding evolution and ecology. Studying tropical biodiversity is impossible without sound taxonomic knowledge. The ALAS (Arthropods of La Selva) project has been studying arthropod biodiversity in a typical neotropical forest for well over a decade. From these and other recent collections made in Costa Rica I have accumulated probably 60 to 70 new species of Scolytinae and Platypodinae (a closely related group).

This Master’s project will produce a well-illustrated revision with morphological descriptions of new species and their closest relatives, for a selected species group or genus of scolytine or platypodine weevils. In addition to taxonomy, this will include analysing distribution patterns for the group based on available collections and literature. It will also contribute species-based web pages to the Encyclopedia of Life. If funding is available, mtDNA sequences (COI) will be determined and published, as species “barcodes”, and there would then be a possibility for incorporating phylogenetic analyses in the project.

The student will travel to Costa Rica and Panama to collect examples of the chosen group in the field, but primarily to find and identify relevant specimens in the collections at the National Institute of Biodiversity (INBio) and the University of Costa Rica. Type material will be borrowed from museum collections.


Barkbille biodiversitet: hvordan taksonomi kan belyse mønstre i tropisk artropod biodiversitet