Their enormous diversity was showcased in ZooKeys a few months ago, which listed the 74 new beetle species Liebherr and his colleagues recently identified after repeated trips up the wet, densely forested sides of Haleakala. “Australia has about 25 species of Mecyclothorax, the Society Islands have 108, and Hawaii has 239,” says Liebherr. “So a state the size of Massachusetts—not to pick on Massachusetts—has 10 times as many [beetle] species as an entire continent.” Even more amazing than their vast diversity is the rate they’ve evolved into different species. In the last 1.9 million years or less, Liebherr says, they’ve diversified 10 to 20 times faster than their mainland counterparts. The discovery could help scientists better understand the murky process of speciation.
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