Unknown Insect from Oman is Ship Timber Beetle

Musandam insect
Location: Musandam, northern Oman
November 14, 2011 6:57 am
This insect can fly very swiftly as it did shortly after I photographed it, much to my surprise.
Signature: Keith Wilson

Unknown Insect

Dear Keith,
New mail was slow today, so we went back through our unanswered requests to find some interesting posts.  Your photo has us quite intrigued as well as stumped.  The head somewhat resembles a Stick Insect in the order Phasmidae, though the legs are quite short and there are no visible antennae.  Something about this insect reminds us of the insects that have aquatic nymphs, though again we are not quite certain.  Though it has been some time since you sent this request, can you provide us with any information on its size or the conditions under which it was seen, including terrain?

Hi Daniel,
The insect was a beetle – a ship boring beetle, known as Atratocerus belonging to the family  Lymexylidae. It was about 30 mm long. It was the second record for Arabia and may have come in on a wooden ship as it was found near a local fishing boat where there are lots of wooden dhows. The antennae are present but folded under the head.

Eric Eaton identifies Ship Timber Beetle
Dear Daniel:
Trying this again.  First time it never sent, or saved….
Happy holidays to you, too!
I am delighted that I can give the gift of this identification, especially when my initial thought was that this is a fly of some kind.  I was literally off by several “orders” of magnitude!  I still managed to find this blog post by my friend Ted MacRae.  Turns out this is a beetle.  I know!  He has a nearly identical image, but good information to go with it:
Hope that helps.  Take care.

Ed. Note:  Here are a few quotes from Beetles in the Bush posting on this Ship Timber Beetle:

“One of the more unusual, and enigmatic, beetles that I encountered in South Africa was this beetle in the pantropical genus Atractocerus.  Placed in the family Lymexylidae (ship-timber beetles), species in this genus look less like beetles than they do large flying ants or strange damselflies due to their highly reduced elytra that expose their greatly elongated abdomen and leave the hind wings uncovered.  The hind wings also are unusual in that they are held fan-like in repose rather than folded as in most other beetles.  Atractocerus brevicornis is the only species in the genus found in Africa (Scholtz & Holm 1985).”

Atractocerus species are rarely encountered and therefore, not well studied. Their evolutionary history is still unknown; however, the oldest known lymexylid fossil is a very primitive member of the genus Atractocerus preserved in 100 myo Burmese amber (Grimwold & Engel 2005). Thus, the lineage containing these beetles had already appeared by the mid-Cretaceous and may have originated as early as the Jurassic, a fact that has earned them the moniker ‘living fossils.’ These beetles were once thought to be among the most primitive of all Coleoptera – their simple wing venation, almost undifferentiated antennae and tarsi, and naked abdomen being likened to a supposed neuropteran common ancestor.”

2 thoughts on “Unknown Insect from Oman is Ship Timber Beetle”

  1. This is should be some kind of beetle. Elytra can be seen if you look carefully. I guess that this is some kind of tropical Lymexylonidae.
    Also merry christmas and a happy new year!!!

    • Thanks mardikavana,
      Our posting was so tardy that Keith Wilson had also correctly identified his own beetle by the time it appeared on What’s That Bug? Eric Eaton also supplied the correct identification for us.


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