Thursday, January 14, 2010

New biology term.

     Every once in a while (all the time...) I do a random google search to look for cool new stories. Just now I searched "Subterranean Coleoptera". The first result was a recent paper:  Evolution of Subterranean Diving Beetles (Dytiscidae: Bidessini) in the Arid Zone of Australia. 
     I won't go into the details of the paper, but I did learn a new word......Stygobiontic. If you google search define:stygobiontic you'll be utterly disappointed. I finally found the definition in a powerpoint presentation by a researcher who studies stygobiontic species in Texas.
     Stygobiontic species live only in groundwater, they are almost never found at the surface. Cool.
     Below is a drawing from the paper mentioned above, by Remko Leys et al. For comparison I put a 'standard' member of the family below.

Standard Dytiscidae from bugguide.


  1. That's pretty interesting... bugs really are everywhere. If this were last semester, I might have stolen this one for a bug of the day.

    But what's more interesting, I think, is the etymology of "stygobiontic." I was thinking about it for a little while and the word seems to derive from the name of the river Styx, one of the five rivers of the underworld in Greek mythology and the one which specifically forms the boundary between the underworld and Earth. It's pretty cool, and makes sense in this context... Styx is a water source underneath the ground. I love it when biology and classics collide!

  2. Perfect! I was hoping you would see this. Would you mind if I posted your explanation to the main page?

  3. Go for it! I don't mind at all. If you're curious, there's a bunch of (surprisingly credible) information on Styx over at Wikipedia. An interesting fun fact is that Styx is also the "river of hate," although I'd imagine that has nothing to do with these stygobiontic organisms.