Wildlife & Biodiversity

Meet ‘Omorgus Khandesh’, a newly discovered Indian beetle: It can help forensic science

Their presence can help identify the time of death of an animal or human 

By DTE Staff
Published: Wednesday 15 February 2023
The beetle was found in the collections of Zoological Survey of India, Western Regional Centre (WRC), Pune. Photo: Aparna Kalawate12jav.net

A new beetle species has been discovered in India, according to a paper published in the New Zealand-based journal ZootaxaThe beetle is important for forensic science as it helps detect the time of death of an animal or human. 

Omorgus Khandesh is necrophagous and is, therefore, also called a keratin beetle. During the decomposition of a body, blowflies are amongst the first ones to arrive in the early stages. Meanwhile, the final successional stage is with the arrival of the keratin feeders, thus their importance in forensic science.

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The bug was discovered by scientist Aparna Sureshchandra Kalawate who works with Zoological Survey of India, Western Regional Centre (WRC), Pune. The paper was co-authored by Werner P Strümpher of the Ditsong National Museum of Natural History, Pretoria, South Africa. 

The beetle was found in the collections of WRC, according to a press note shared by the authors. The new species belongs to the Trogidae family. With the addition of this new species, now there are a total of 14 extant species of this family in India.

The beetles of this group are sometimes called hide beetles as they tend to cover their body under the soil and hide. They are not photogenic; they are usually black or grey and encrusted in dirt. Their bumpy appearance is distinct, with short, dense setae all over the body.

The new species is morphologically most similar to Omorgus rimulosus. The latter is redescribed and illustrated to enable accurate recognition of both species in the new paper. 

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Omorgus Khandesh is mainly associated with bird and mammal nests or burrows and the details of their life histories are poorly known. They feign death upon being disturbed and become motionless.

“The keratin beetles are less studied in the Oriental region generally and India particularly as compared to the other part of the world,” said the press note.

“Hence, in that same paper, authors have tried to give the catalogue of the subgenus Omorgus with details on their type depositories, synonyms, chresonomy and known geographical distributions,” it added.

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