Angat Buhay beetle discovered using innovative lab-at-home set-up
14 Jul 2022 | Ateneo Biodiversity Research Laboratory
Two new species of water scavenger beetles, including the Angat Buhay beetle, were discovered and described by Enrico Gerard Sanchez (BS Biology 22), thesis adviser Dr Emmanuel Delocado, and co-adviser Prof Dr Hendrik Freitag from the Ateneo Biodiversity Research Laboratory of the Department of Biology. This publication was part of Sanchez's undergraduate thesis, which he conducted in the middle of the pandemic and defended in April 2022. In addition, these discoveries were published in the international scientific journal ZooKeys in an article entitled "Two new species of Anacaena Thomson, 1859 (Coleoptera, Hydrophilidae) from Northern Luzon, Philippines" [ZooKeys 1112: 11–25 (2022)].
Discovered in Ifugao, the first of the two new species is Anacaena angatbuhay, named after the Angat Buhay anti-poverty program launched during the term of former Vice President Leni Robredo. The authors said the species is named to honor the program's outstanding and unparalleled service, especially during the pandemic. In a Facebook post, Delocado added that the species has existed but remained unnoticed by the world until its publication. The species' name is a nod to the countless Filipinos working for and with far-flung communities whose efforts were not widely recognized.
The second species is named Anacaena auxilium, in honor of Mary Help of Christian High School Seminary in Binmaley, Pangasinan, which Sanchez attended during junior high school. The paper noted that help (auxilium in Latin) alludes to the need to pay attention to the vulnerable state of freshwater biodiversity in the Southeast Asian region. The study used A. auxilium samples from Mountain Province in 1997 loaned by entomologist Dr Wolfram Mey (Museum für Naturkunde Berlin) and from the pre-pandemic Ilocos Sur expedition of the Biodiversity Lab. In the scope of Sanchez's thesis, it was determined that the specimens collected 22 years apart were the same. Before this study, there was only one paper on Philippine Anacaena beetles, which Freitag co-authored.
The study is noteworthy because it was conducted amidst the pandemic using an innovative lab-at-home set-up. These home lab microscopes were acquired with the support of SC Johnson Environmental Leadership Development Fund. Sanchez performed sorting and dissection at home, with several virtual walkthroughs and Zoom consultations with Delocado and Freitag. In addition, courier services were utilized to transport samples and materials among the authors. Later, when the pandemic restrictions became lighter, and the campus reopened, specimen observation and photo documentation using more suitable equipment was performed.
Sanchez had previously reaped awards for his undergraduate thesis. He was one of the two recipients of the Dean's Choice Awards at the SOSE Student Research Symposium last May. He also won 1st Place in the Young Systematic Biologists Forum sponsored by the Association of Systematic Biologists of the Philippines last June. In addition, the collective project of Sanchez and other thesis students of the Biodiv Lab (Christalle Beatriz Seno, Maureen Lianne Pascual, Jaymes Bryant Tibig, BS Bio' 22) was awarded the Excellence Award for Senior Research Group at the Ateneo Socio-Civic Engagement for National Development (ASCEND) Awards for their efforts on species discovery for biomonitoring purposes using the innovative lab at home set-up. Currently, publications are being written about the other species discovered by the group.
Collection of samples from rivers in Northern Luzon was performed pre-pandemic by the lab under the "Freshwater biodiversity surveys" project funded by the School of Science and Engineering Industry 4.0 Research Fund (SI4-013) of Ateneo Research Institute of Science and Engineering (ARISE) and the Biodiversity Teaching in a Philippine-Cambodian-German Network (BIO-PHIL) project.
The open-access paper is available at https://zookeys.pensoft.net/article/85752/ .