Bizarre new species of bee discovered with dog-like snout

Specimen of a new species of bee, Leioproctus zephyr. Credit: Curtin University

A new species of native bee with a dog-like “snout” has been discovered in the Perth bush in Western Australia. It was identified through research conducted by Curtin University that sheds new light on our most important pollinators.

Dr Kit Prendergast of the Curtin School of Molecular and Life Sciences named the new species after his pet dog Zephyr after noticing that a protruding part of the insect’s face resembled a dog’s muzzle. The name also acknowledges the role her dog played in providing emotional support during her doctorate. Dr. Prendergast is the author of an article on the discovery which was published on October 31 in the Hymenoptera Research Journal.

According to Dr. Prendergast, this rare and remarkable discovery would add to existing knowledge about the evolution of our biodiversity. It would also insure the bees, named Zephyr of Leioproctushave been protected through conservation efforts.

“When I first looked at the specimens I collected during my PhD investigations uncovering the biodiversity of native bees in the urbanized regions of Western Australia’s south-west biodiversity hotspot, I was immediately intrigued by the bee’s very unusual face,” said Dr Prendergast.

Specimen of Leioproctus zephyrus

Specimen of a new species of bee, Leioproctus zephyr. Credit: Curtin University

“When I went to identify it, I found that it didn’t match any described species, and I was sure that if it was a known species, it would be quite easy to identify it being given its unusual appearance.

“You can only confirm a particular species once you look at them under a microscope and go through the long process of trying to match their characteristics with other identified species and then going through museum collections.

“While browsing through the entomology collection at the WA Museum, I discovered that a few specimens of Leioproctus zephyrus had been collected for the first time in 1979, but had never been scientifically described.

Dr Prendergast said she was delighted to play a part in spreading this species and officially naming it.

“Insects in general are so diverse and so important, but we don’t have descriptions or scientific names for so many of them,” Dr Prendergast said.

“The Zephyr of Leioproctus has a very restricted distribution, occurring in only seven locations in south-west Western Australia to date, and has not been collected from its original location. They were totally absent from residential gardens and present only in five remnants of urban bush that I studied, where they fed on two species of Jacksonie.

“Not only is this species tough, but it also has a snout-like clypeus. Therefore, I named them after my dog ​​Zephyr. She was so important to my mental health and well-being during the difficult time of doing a PhD and beyond.

Dr Prendergast was able to confirm that the new species was more closely related to other unidentified species Leioproctus through[{” attribute=””>DNA barcoding.

Reference: “Leioproctus zephyr Prendergast (Hymenoptera, Colletidae, Leioproctus), an oligoletic new bee species with a distinctive clypeus” by Kit S. Prendergast, 31 October 2022, Journal of Hymenoptera Research.
DOI: 10.3897/jhr.93.85685

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