Rare Beetle Discovered at Former Governor Jerry Brown's Ranch

Category Science

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An entomologist from UC Berkeley discovered a rare beetle species on Jerry Brown's ranch in Colusa County, CA, which had not been observed by scientists since 1966. The species will be named Bembidion brownorum, in honor of Governor Brown and his wife. Rapid urbanization during the 20th century likely caused the species' 70% decline.

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During the insect sampling expedition at Jerry Brown’s ranch, a researcher from UC Berkeley stumbled upon a beetle species that had eluded scientific observation since 1966.

Upon learning that ex-Governor Jerry Brown was inviting field researchers to his Colusa County ranch, Kipling Will, a University of California, Berkeley entomologist, was eager to seize the opportunity to search for beetles on the estate.

The species to be named in honor of Jerry Brown and his wife, Anne, is a rare ground beetle known as Bembidion brownorum

"I reached out and said, ‘Hey, I want to sample your beetles,’" Will said. "And [Brown] was quite game to let me come up there." .

Being a professor in environmental science, policy, and management, Will has ventured all across California to examine carabid beetles. These ground beetles play a critical role as predators of other insects in agricultural and garden ecosystems. However, his recurrent explorations at Brown’s ranch turned out to be particularly rewarding.

Unlabeled or misidentified specimens of this species were found in California museums dating back to 1966

While sampling for insects near Freshwater Creek, Will collected a rare species of beetle that had never been named or described — and which, according to records, had not been observed by scientists in over 55 years. The new species will be named Bembidion brownorum, in honor of Brown and his wife, Anne Brown.

"I’m very glad that [my ranch] is advancing science in some interesting and important ways," said Brown, who has hosted a wild variety of field researchers, including geologists, anthropologists, and botanists, on the property. "There are so many undiscovered species. I think it’s very important that we catalog and discover what we have and understand their impact on the environment — how it’s functioning and how it’s changing." .

Kipling Will, a UC Berkeley entomologist, found the beetle at Brown's ranch near Freshwater Creek in Colusa County

Brown’s 2,500-acre ranch is about an hour’s drive north of Sacramento, in an agricultural region where most of the land is privately owned and insect biodiversity is historically understudied. For more than two years, Will has regularly sampled for insects on the ranch, sometimes even showing the beetles that he finds to the Browns.

Jerry Brown said his dedication to welcoming researchers onto his land is rooted in the ranch’s history as a stagecoach stop called Mountain House, and in his own interest in climate change and conservation.

Jerry Brown's ranch spans 2,500 acres, and hosts many geologists, anthropologists, and botanists to conduct research on the property

"We don’t have stagecoach stop, but we have a place of gathering, of research and collaboration," said Brown, who is currently chair of the California-China Climate Institute at UC Berkeley.

After collecting a beetle at the ranch that didn’t resemble any species he was familiar with, Will called up Bembidion expert David Maddison, a professor of integrative biology at Oregon State University, to help identify the specimen. Together, the scientists used morphological and DNA analysis to confirm that the beetle represented a completely new species.

The beetle species is an important predator of other insects in agricultural and garden ecosystems

Will then combed through entomology collections at museums throughout California in search of other specimens that may have been unlabeled or misidentified. He found only 21 other specimens of the species, the most recent of which was collected in 1966.

The lack of any more recent specimens indicated to him that the species likely collapsed during the second half of the 20th century, driven out of its natural habitat by rapid urbaniation.

Rapid urbanization during the second half of the 20th century is the suspected culprit for the 70% collapse of the beetle species

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