Scientists Photograph New Species of Beetle That Was Mistaken for Bird Poo

beetle bird poo photos newly discovered

Scientists have shared the first-ever photographs of a newly discovered species of beetle that was almost mistaken for bird poo.

A team of researchers from the University of Queensland discovered a remarkable new genus of fluffy beetle during a chance sighting while camping on a recent expedition to the rainforests of Australia’s Gold Coast.

However, the discovery of the bug, which has now been identified as a new species called the kooky longhorn beetle (Excastra albopilosa), almost never happened.

The bug almost went undetected as when the researchers first saw the kooky longhorn beetle, they briefly mistook the creature for bird droppings.

“I was walking through the campsite at Binna Burra Lodge one morning and something on a Lomandra leaf caught my eye,” James Tweed, the PhD candidate at the University of Queensland who made the discovery, says in a statement.

“To my amazement, I saw the most extraordinary and fluffiest longhorn beetle I had ever seen.

“Measuring 9.7 millimeters [around 1/3 of an inch], it was a striking red and black beauty covered in long white hairs.”

After the trip, Tweed searched through books, scientific papers, and online groups to find a match for the species but nothing looked remotely similar.

Eventually, Tweed contacted experts at the Australian National Insect Collection (ANIC) who confirmed that the beetle in the photo was a completely new species.

In fact, the ANIC confirmed that the bug was not just a new species, but also a new genus — or family of species — as well.

Why This Beetle Briefly Looked Like Bird Poo

According to IFLScience, the kooky longhorn beetle’s unusual appearance — which led it to almost be mistaken for bird poo — could be down to an evolutionary “trick” used by harmless species to appear more dangerous than they actually are.

The publication says that the fine white hairs that cover the beetle may have evolved to make the insect look like it’s been infected with a pathogenic fungus, making it an unappetizing sight for swooping birds.

“We chose the name Excastra for the genus, which is Latin for ‘from the camp,’ and for the species name, we decided on albopilosa which translates to ‘white and hairy’,” Tweed explains.

“We don’t yet know what these hairs are for, but our primary theory is that they make the insect look like it’s been killed by an insect-killing fungus.

“This would possibly deter predators such as birds from eating it, but until someone can find more specimens and study this species further, we won’t be able to say for sure why this beetle is so hairy.”

Tweed says that he has returned to the same area several times since. But he has unfortunately not encountered the kooky longhorn beetle again since.

Image credits: Header Image by James Tweed