Writing in the journal ZooKeys, researchers from the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History in California describes 85 new species in the genus Baconia, renowned for their brilliant coloration and bizarrely flattened body forms.
The new count of new species, mostly from North and South America, brings the genus up to 116 total species, they said.
"Even beetle specialists are amazed by the fantastic colors of Baconia," study lead author Michael Caterino said.
What purposes the colors may serve, however, remains a mystery, he said.
"In natural history terms, the species of Baconia aren't very different from several other groups of clown beetles with similar habits, but much duller coloration."
The fact so many of the new species remained unknown for so long may be partly attributed to their extreme rarity, the researchers said. Although more than 20 museums' collections were assembled for the study, nearly half the species are still known from only one or two specimens.
"Our greatest hope is that by calling attention to the existence of such exquisite creatures, we will inspire others to go out and seek out new populations and data," Caterino said.
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