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First Newsletter Article


by Michael P.T. Gillett

(The following article appeared in the August, 1992, issue of the Newsletter of the Al Ain chapter of the Emirates Natural History Group.)

It is my hope that the accompanying article will be the first in a series in which I will record the occurrence and describe the natural history of beetles from around the Al Ain region. Coleoptera are the dominant element (in terms of numbers of species) in most terrestrial faunas and the Arabian fauna is unlikely to be an exception to this. Despite their large numbers and almost endless variety, beetles are largely ignored, even by most naturalists. The purpose of my articles will be, therefore, to try to create "beetle awareness" and hopefully to show that beetles can be interesting and, indeed, fun to study. Each article will usually concentrate on just one species or a group of closely related species.

At present our knowledge about the insect fauna in general, and the coleoptera in particular, in this region is meager. Both literature and reference collections are either non-existent or difficult to access. This makes formal recording of the regional coleoptera impractical at this time, since for most species, identification even to the generic level is difficult. One would hope to see an improvement in this situation over the coming years (the availability of the excellent Fauna of Saudi Arabia series in the University Library and development of a reference collection in the University Natural History Museum would both greatly help). Indeed, the correct identification and an accurate knowledge of the natural history of the beetle species in the region may assume economic importance as the region's agriculture develops. Many local species show a tendency to undergo population explosions with mass emergences; these species include several potential pest genera (e.g. Pentodon and Phyllognathus - Scarabaeidae; Lanelater - Elateridae) as well as possible pest control genera (e.g. Calosoma - Carabidae).

In this first article I will eschew these species of potential economic importance in favor of the tiger beetles which, aptly for such a first article, are placed near to the head of most classifications of the coleoptera. However, it will be my objective to eventually deal with representatives of as many different groups of local beetles as possible.

Patron: H.E. Sheikh Nahayan bin Mubarak Al Nahayan