Scientists need your help to name Christmas beetle species

BEAUTIFUL BEETLE: A rare chance to give new names to varieties of Christmas beetles.
BEAUTIFUL BEETLE: A rare chance to give new names to varieties of Christmas beetles. Contributed

FORGET Christmas beetles: Australians could soon be spotting Bowie Beetles, Jedi Beetles and maybe Prince Beetles thanks to an Australian Museum naming competition finishing on Sunday.

Principal Research Scientist Chris Reid said there were 34 recognised varieties of Christmas beetle in Australia, but only three of those found in NSW had non-scientific names: the King Beetle, Queen Beetle and Washerwoman.

He said there were nine other Christmas beetle varieties known to live in NSW and each one was waiting for a common name to complement existing scientific names like Anoplognathus chloropyrus.

Suggestions in the competition so far - there have been more than 4000 - showed people were keen to name beetles in honour of legendary pop culture icons who have died in 2016, particularly David Bowie.

Dr Reid said sci-fi series Star Wars had also inspired name suggestions: a Princess Leia Beetle, perhaps?

The entomologist will join Australian Museum Director Kim McKay and ABC's Gardening Australia presenter Costa Georgiadis next week to pick nine winning entries.

Winners will gain free membership to the museum for one year and their chosen names will feature in a new Christmas Beetle identification smart phone app designed by Dr Reid and Scientific Illustrator Mike Burleigh.

Information about the competition stated "common names - unlike the Latin names used by scientists to identify species - are part of the everyday lexicon, so whatever is chosen will exist for generations to come".

"We are looking for creative and descriptive entries. Good luck!"

The competition was due to close Sunday, December 18.

Topics:  beetle general-seniors-news

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