Something a bit different today – a beetle. Graphic novel Last of the Sandwalkers by author/illustrator (and biology professor) Jay Hosler arrives on shelves today, featuring a beetle civilization making contact with the wider world. Mr. Hosler is here to tell us about one of the characters from the book. The floor is all yours, Jay…
Character Name: Professor Owen
Species: Colophon primosi
Length: approximately 20 mm
Habitat: mountain tops in South Africa
Superpower: Being very, very naughty, pushing buttons
If you go looking for information on Colophon primosi you will quickly learn that it is hard to come by. The species itself is one of 17 in the Colophon genus and they are all critically endangered. There seem to be two major threats to this group of beetles. The first is collectors. These beetles are highly prized by beetle collectors from several countries. Unchecked collection has severely diminished wild populations. These beetles are slow moving and flightless, so getting away from lumbering humans is not their strong suit.
The second impact on their numbers may be climate change. These beetles were discovered high in the mountains by a scientist named Barnard who enjoyed climbing. Colophon beetles prefer cooler temperatures and are currently only found on mountain peaks in a couple provinces of South Africa. Some scientists believe that the beetles have essentially taken refuge here as lower altitude habitats became too warm for them. In a very real way these beetles are trapped on high altitude island with nowhere to run. Given their endangered status, Colophon soecies are currently protected from collection and sale.
What little we know about the species suggests that they feed on plants and that their larva feed on roots. Adults seem to be nocturnal but they are also active in early morning fog rolling over the mountaintops. These beetle also don’t reproduce very fast, so there are concerns about how quickly they can recover from the damage done by habitat loss and collecting.
In Last of the Sandwalkers, Professor Owen is based on Colophon Primosi (although he is much smaller than a typical specimen) and he isn’t threatened. He’s the threat. He can be a very naughty beetle and he loves to push your buttons. He also loves to push the buttons on the gizmos he creates and when he does, watch out. Trouble will soon follow.