In the world of research and discovery, little stories pop up from time to time that provide insight into the everyday lives of specialists in the field.
In 2004, Stéphane Le Tirant, curator of the scientific collection of the Insectarium, was doing consulting work in South Africa for the shooting of a series on insects (Insectia). Early in the morning, in the evening or during his time off, he took advantage of his presence in this beautiful region of the Transvaal to collect insects of the beetle family for scientific purposes. He was able to observe many dung beetles, including Heliocopris, which are part of the largest dung beetle genus on the planet. Although he knew little about these coprophagous beetles, he was able to identify all but one small set of the specimens he observed. Knowing that the book Giant Dung Beetles of the Genus Heliocopris (Scarabaeidae) would be published in 2009 and would surely review the genus, he waited for its release to identify the specimens.
Five years later, book in hand, he was still unable to identify the series by name. No problem! He decided to ship his series of specimens to Philippe Moretto, a specialist of African coprophagous insects. Mr. Moretto replied that if he could not identify them, it was because they were a new unidentified species of the genus Heliocopris! Since this very large insect is the subject of much scientific research, discovering new specimens is a very rare event.
In 2021, 16 years after this exceptional discovery, the specimen goes by the name of Heliocopris letiranti. Visitors to the Insectarium’s scientific collection will be able to observe the Heliocopris letiranti first hand. The curator is very passionate about entomology and has a dozen other insects named after him!
Discover Stéphane Le Tirant through a series of blog posts he wrote for Montréal Space for Life.