“I knew the second I saw it that it was not any of the species I had ever seen in the park before, and probably none of the species known from the eastern United States. United, ”said Brent Steury, natural resources program manager for the George Washington Memorial Parkway, a national park site in Fairfax and Arlington counties, Va. The species he was referring to is a new species of soldier beetle (family Cantharidae) discovered by Steury in 2019 and described in a recent issue of an international journal dedicated to the study of beetles called The Coleopterists Bulletin. “I had to be sure this beetle wasn’t a species that recently arrived in North America from another country and the Bulletin Coleterists peer review process helped me do that. This post makes it official, “Steury said,” the planet still has one species with a name. ”
Steury has been inventorying the flora and fauna of the promenade for over 15 years and has a particular fondness for “beetles, snails and plants,” he said. The discovery was made at Turkey Run Park (a unit of the boardwalk) near the Potomac Gorge, an area known for its great richness in species and rare plants and animals. Steury found over 100 previously unknown species of Virginia in this region, but he was still “a little surprised” to find a species of beetle totally unknown to science, “especially one so brilliantly colored and so large” , Steury said. “At seven to eight millimeters,” a little less than half an inch (females are slightly larger than males), “that felt big to me,” he said. “Many previously unknown species of Virginia found in the Potomac Gorge are less than half that size,” Steury explained.
This is not the first time that species unknown to science have been discovered near the Potomac Gorge in Turkey Run Park; “New species of flies, a caddisfly and an amphipod” (small shrimp-like organisms) “have also been discovered here over the past 15 years,” Steury said. “We work a lot with the Smithsonian Institution and these species were discovered by colleagues there,” Steury said. “It’s so amazing to find new forms of life right outside your office,” said Steury, pointing to the window of his office in Turkey Run Park.
“In 1948, John Green discovered another new species of soldier beetle at Turkey Run Park, then called Podabrus vernalis but now known as Dichelotarsus vernalis. Lucky visitors to the park can still see this species today, ”Steury said.
When you find a new species, you need to give it a name. Some species are named after the places where they were found, the attributes of their anatomy or color, or after people. Actor Leonardo DiCaprio recently introduced a new species of beetle to Southeast Asia that bears his name in honor of his work to protect the environment.
“I couldn’t think of anyone more worthy than Jim Sherald to name this beetle after,” Steury said, beaming from ear to ear.
“Jim was our natural resource manager for the National Capital Region,” said Steury, the part of the National Park Service that oversees protection of the Potomac Gorge. “I have worked with Jim for over 15 years and he cared more about the throat and protecting its resources than anyone I know.
“I thought it was fair to name this new soldier beetle. Jim was like a soldier, protecting the natural resources of the gorge. Without people like him, these resources are likely to grow. The National Park Service only manages these lands for the public. We are responsible for protecting them so that future generations can enjoy them like us. Thank you my God for people like Jim. “
Dr. James L. Sherald retired from the National Park Service (NPS) in January 2010 after 35 years. During his career, he was a plant pathology researcher and later chief of natural resources and science for the National Capital Region (NCR), which manages the national parks in the Washington metropolitan area.