Corvallis Science and Nature: Tiny Beetle Discovery, Three Thursday Events, Morning, Noon and Night 

Beetle Discovery 

Insects are an incredibly diverse group of animals, especially the beetles. There are more species of beetle than of any other life form, animal or plant, over 400,000 and counting. This week, OSU professor Dr. David Maddison and colleagues from Germany, the UK, Japan and the Czech Republic published a paper that adds to this diversity and sheds light on one of the least understood families of beetles in the world.  

The Sphaeriusidae are not the most exciting beetles at first glance. They are small, dark, round insects that live in damp soil. They look like tiny ladybugs, but painted shiny black. And they’re everywhere, on every continent except Antarctica. Until now, they have been mostly ignored, not only by the majority of us that don’t spend our time going through soil with hand lenses, but also by the scientific community. It was believed that the family only included one genus and a handful of species, despite their wide range. Thanks to this new analysis, we know there’s more to these small, shy critters than meets the eye. 

The international team behind the paper looked at specimens of Sphaeriusid beetles from all over the world, as well as two rare samples that were frozen in amber almost 100 million years ago. Using genetics, they split the one current genus into at least three—two alive, one extinct. The team also learned that these beetles, like sharks and sea turtles, are unusual in how little they’ve changed over time. The amber beetles look almost identical to the current ones, with almost no recognizable change since the time of the dinosaurs.    

This Youtube video shows a Sphaeriusid in action.  

Annual Nature Slideshow 

For a town our size, Corvallis has an abundance of great nature photographers. This Thursday, December 15, Corvallis Audubon is hosting its annual slideshow, showing off some of the best photos its members have taken this year. If past years are any example, there will be photos taken right here in Corvallis parks, as well as from travels all over the world. The program starts at 7:00 pm in the Oak Room of the Corvallis Community Center on NW Tyler. If you aren’t able to attend, you can watch over Zoom (email for login details). More information is available here.  

The Confluence Open House 

Also Thursday, the public is invited to an open house at The Confluence on the 400 block of SW 2nd Street. The Confluence is the combined effort of five Corvallis nonprofits (Cascade Pacific Resource, Conservation and Development; Corvallis Environmental Center; Institute for Applied Ecology; The Greenbelt Trust; and Marys River Watershed Council) to share resources and build a hub for environmental work in the city. The mission of the combined groups starts with the building itself. It was built with local wood, constructed to be deconstructed and reused rather than demolished, and features a rooftop reclaimed water system. Visitors are welcome from 3-5pm, and refreshments are provided. More information here. 

Trashy Thursday 

If that’s enough for the last Thursday of fall, you can get out and help keep our Willamette River clean. Willamette Riverkeeper and Corvallis Parks need volunteers to help clean up the low-lying riparian areas along the river that are most likely to flood during the winter. The cleanup runs from 9:00 am to Noon. Meet at the Corvallis BMX Track Park, off of 551 SE Chapman. Dress for the weather. Coffee provided. More information here. 

By Ian Rose 

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