New rhinoceros beetle species named after conservationist

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Hemicyrthus blaffarti from New Caledonia described

New Caledonia is a biodiversity hotspot, with a high number of endemic species, many of which living in very small areas. Go to another mountain, or just a few miles to another valley, and you might find a different set of species. Since the early 2000s, Dr Jörn Theuerkauf from the Museum and Institute of Zoology of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw has been working in the Parc Provincial de la Rivière Bleue in southern Neu Caledonia. Walking through the forest, he occasionally found and preserved dead beetles. Ten of those turned out to be a new species of hornless rhinoceros beetle of the endemic genus Hemicyrthus. It was recently published in the journal Zootaxa as Hemicyrthus blaffarti. It is a substantial beetle of over 20 mm body length, but without hind wings thus unable to fly. We decided to name the new species for Henry Blaffart (1965–2008), a Belgian conservationist who had worked in New Caledonia for Conservation International on projects with strong community involvement. He died in an accident on the Tiendanite River in the Northern Province while working on the Mt Panié conservation project. While the killing of ten specimens would not have affected any insect population, Henry Blaffart would certainly be happy that no specimen was killed of the species that now carries his name.

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