'Legendary' beetle found on common
Published 10/07/2015 | 16:16
It was famously home to the Wombles, but Wimbledon Common now has an even more unusual resident, scientists have discovered.
A single specimen of the globally rare False Click Beetle has been discovered in the 1,140-acre green space in south-west London, the first ever seen in the capital.
And like the pointy-nosed "wombling free" creatures that starred in the cult 1970s children's TV series, the insect is known for its environmental credentials.
The Wombles' goal in life was to keep Wimbledon Common tidy by clearing up and recycling rubbish. Similarly, the False Click Beetle, Eucnemis capucina, is associated with unspoiled natural environments.
A member of staff at London's Natural History Museum made the surprise find during a recent insect survey conducted with the Conservators of Wimbledon Common.
Dr Max Barclay, manager of the museum's 10 million strong beetle collection, said: "Sampling beetles is like taking a blood test, it gives you quick idea of a whole ecosystem's health. This beetle is associated with only the best and oldest woodlands, and previously was known only from the New Forest and Windsor Forest.
"To find such a species at Wimbledon Common shows that the conservators are taking good care of the site, and managing it for wildlife, and that there are old important trees there that can support populations of rare insects.
"Insects are the bottom of the animal food chain, so if insect populations are healthy it bodes well for bats, birds and other animals."
He added: "Eucnemis is a kind of legendary beetle. No-one I know has ever seen it, and the newest specimens in Natural History Museum are from the 1930s. Finds such as these are a perfect example of how our research and collections show the diversity of life on our planet."
The beetle is considered a "Grade One" indicator of good quality ancient woodland.
Keita Matsumoto, who found the insect, said: "It was a lucky shot. I'm pleased I was swinging my insect net that afternoon instead of my tennis racquet."
In total the survey recorded more than 100 species of beetle, many of which had not been reported in the area before.