• Researchers named it after former California Gov. Jerry Brown and his wife
  • The beetle was brown and its protothorax had a rather "unusual shape"
  • B. brownorum is possibly "yet another unlucky carabid beetle species," researchers say

Researchers spotted a beetle in California that hadn't been observed in more than 55 years. They named it after former California Gov. Jerry Brown and his wife Anne.

The team had been sampling ground beetles (carabids) in the U.S. and Canada, particularly in areas that are poorly sampled, they said in their paper, which was published Monday in Zookeys. One of the places was Colusa County Ranch.

"California has the richest fauna in North America, with over 120 species known," the researchers wrote. "Although within an hour's drive of the major metropolitan center of Sacramento, many parts of Colusa County, California remain unsampled and little represented in major California entomology collections."

"I reached out and said, 'Hey, I want to sample your beetles,'" entomologist Kipling Will, of the University of California, Berkeley, said in a news release. "And [Brown] was quite game to let me come up there."

Among the many beetles they collected, one stood out. It looked quite like other beetles in some ways but was "unusual enough" to be a previously unknown species, the researchers noted.

It was brown, though it glowed with a gold-green metallic shimmer under magnification, was bigger than other Bembidion beetles, and its protothorax had a rather "unusual shape" that was different from other beetles.

Will and Bembidion expert David Maddison, who was also one of the authors of the paper, analyzed the specimen and confirmed it was a new species. They found 21 specimens of the species in museums in California — the latest one was from the 1960s.

They named it Bembidion brownorum after Brown and his wife Anne for their "hospitality and openness" that led to the discovery of the species. The species was found on Brown's property.

"Additionally, this honors their long commitment to environmentalism and continued efforts in the international climate-change movement," the researchers wrote

"I'm very glad that [my ranch] is advancing science in some interesting and important ways," Brown said. "There are so many undiscovered species. I think it's very important that we catalog and discover what we have and understand their impact on the environment — how it's functioning and how it's changing."

So what happened to the B. brownorum species all these years? It's possible it was a much more widespread species in the past, the researchers said. It could have become less common in the past decades due to threats like urbanization, habitat degradation and agricultural development.

It appears that B. brownorun is "yet another unlucky carabid beetle species," the researchers noted. Urban development and habitat degradation, for instance, have impacted the Ohlone Tiger Beetle, while the habitat of the Delta Green Ground Beetle has been "significantly impacted" by the transformation of wetlands for agricultural production.

In the case of B. brownorum, "almost none" of the natural habitats where the species was found in the 20s, 30s and 40s is left, Will said.

The researchers are hopeful that the species may still be persisting in other locations.

"(W)e encourage efforts to sample for it, but we are concerned that the species still has the potential to disappear forever," the researchers wrote, noting that a species' "rediscovery or re-collection does not mean a species is doing well."

Unfortunately, it appears that we are not "keeping up with the rate of extinction," said Will. The question now is whether these species can be found and described before the threats — climate change, exposure to pesticides, habitat loss, to name a few — completely drive them to extinction, the researchers said.

Beetle, Moss, Insect, forest floor, earth
Representative image of a beetle on the mossy forest floor. Willfried Wende/Pixabay