Researchers Working to Save Beetle Species on Nantucket



NANTUCKET – Scientists with the Maria Mitchell Association and the Roger Williams Park Zoo have released a study which suggests the Nantucket population of America’s largest carrion beetles cannot survive without help from humans.

The federally endangered American burying beetle was reintroduced to the island in 1994 as part of an effort to save the species.

The beetle, which is the size of a wine cork with bright orange markings, has disappeared from most of the Eastern United States over the last 100 years.

To successfully reproduce, the species needs to find and bury a dead bird or rodent about the size of a rat.

Lead author of the paper published in the “Journal of Insect Conservation” Andrew Mckenna-Foster, the former director of Natural Science at the Maria Mitchell Association, says few places in the U.S. have enough decaying animals that can support the species.

The paper outlines successful reintroduction methods for Nantucket. Researchers provided quail carcasses to the beetles and saw the population rise to a peak of 212 in 2011.

After reducing the amount of quail provided, the population fell to only 24 beetles in 2016.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is responsible for the Nantucket population and deliberations are underway to determine next steps.

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