NATAL, South Africa, Oct. 22 (UPI) -- Scientists say they've identified two new species of scarab beetles -- famous as the sacred beetles of ancient Egypt -- in southern Africa.
Surprisingly, the researchers said, the two new species of the flightless genus Gyronotus -- G. perissinottoi and G. schuelei -- both dwell in grasslands/savannas, while most of the other six known species in the genus exhibit a preference for forest habitats.
Species in the genus are regarded among the most endangered of African scarab beetles because of their sensitivity to disturbance, as many of their preferred habitats have undergone massive transformation during the past 50 years through clearance, degradation and fragmentation, the scientists said.
The species are thought to have ancient roots to a time when the appearance of Earth's continents was different from today, they said.
"The genus Gyronotus is part of the tribe Canthonini, which has long been recognized as a relic of the ancient supercontinent Gondwanaland," the researchers wrote in the journal Zookeys.
"Members of the genus are also wingless and particularly vulnerable to environmental disturbance.
"Thus, they are undoubtedly of substantial biodiversity and conservation value, with status ranging from vulnerable to critically endangered," the study authors wrote.