Apr 3, 2024 - News

New beetle species named after Houston

Photo of a male and female beetle.

Eunota houstoniana (female, top, and male, bottom) has unique behavior and habitat preferences. Photo: Courtesy of Rice University

A research team with Rice University and Sam Houston State University members discovered a new tiger beetle species in Houston and named the small, slightly metallic creature after the city.

Why it matters: The Eunota houstoniana was once considered synonymous with the more common Eunota circumpicta beetle, but the team's research revealed different physical and genetic characteristics.

Threat level: While Eunota houstoniana is newly discovered, it's likely a threatened species because its habitats are increasingly jeopardized by urbanization and agricultural or industrial activities, per Scott Egan, an evolutionary biologist at Rice.

  • "Because of all the growth around Houston, some of these populations have likely gone extinct, while others have been hiding right out our back door," Egan said.

What they're saying: "It is amazing that within the city limits of Houston, we still don't know all the species of insects or plants we share our region with," Egan said in a statement.

Fun facts: Eunota houstoniana are normally around saline soils near salt domes and oil extraction sites along the Gulf Coast.

  • Biologists say the species' habitat spans from coastal regions to inland areas, demonstrating its adaptability and ecological importance.

By the numbers: Eunota houstoniana is the 17th tiger beetle species discovered by Rice researchers, according to the university.

  • There are around 62 known tiger beetle species in Texas.

Separately, Egan and his team discovered another new beetle species: the Eunota luecophasma, a white ghost tiger beetle from West Texas.

The bottom line: The discovery emphasized the need for a refined process of species delineation, per Rice.


Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Houston.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Houston stories

No stories could be found


Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Houston.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more