The diverse family of plant bugs (Miridae) just got a little bigger. Researchers from the University of California, Riverside, recently discovered a new genus of plant bug and four new species hidden in Australia.
A recent analysis of 761 specimens from museum collections revealed that many of these were previously misidentified and actually represented new species, according to a news release.
Plant bugs are named for their feeding habits – sucking sap from a plant flowers and buds, a behavior that can cause widespread economic damage because the bugs break down plant tissues by injecting them with a toxic substance that is known to harm the plants.
Based on morphological and molecular data, the new plant bug genus has been named Restiophylus, where "Restio" represents the insects' preference for plants in the family Restionaceae and "phylus" signifies its classification under the subfamily Phylinae. Additionally, the four new Restiophylus species were named R. hypolaenae, R. leptocarpi, R. lyginiae, and R. meeboldinae, all of which reflect their association with specific plants. (Scroll to read more...)
Restiophylus species are currently the only arthropods known to feed on flowering plants from the restiid clade, which is comprised of more than 530 species from the Restionaceae and Anarthriaceae families. This suggests there is much to learn about Australia's diverse fauna and restiid-insect interactions.
Their findings were published in the journal Annals of the Entomological Society of America.
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