From left: Gymnetis drogoni, Gymnetis rhaegali, Gymnetis viserioni
Photos: Brett C. Ratcliffe

Three new species of colorful scarab beetles named after dragons in the television series “Game of Thrones” are featured in a recently published book-length monograph by University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) researcher Dr. Brett Ratcliffe.

Gymnetis drogoni is from Colombia, Ecuador, Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay; Gymnetis rhaegali is from French Guiana; and Gymnetis viserioni is from Panama, Colombia and Ecuador.

Although Ratcliffe is a “Game Of Thrones” fan, the names were chosen to draw attention to biodiversity. “When you create names like these, you do it to gain a little bit of notoriety and bring public attention to it,” he told the Associated Press. “We’re still discovering life on Earth. One of every four living things on Earth is a beetle. We haven’t discovered them all. We’re not even close.”

The new monograph from Ratcliffe, who also is the curator of the Entomology Research Collections at the University of Nebraska State Museum, is the culmination of a decades-long research project on a group of chafers that live in Central and South America, according to a UNL press release.

In addition to the three new species named after “Game of Thrones” dragons, the text includes five other new species among the 56 in the book. It can be ordered at here.

Ratcliffe has conducted field research in the tropical forests of Central and South America virtually every year for more than 45 years. He has spent his career at Nebraska training graduate students and promoting increased communication, sharing specimens, techniques and data to colleagues and students around the world to better understand the megadiversity of beetles and their important role in natural ecosystems.

Ratcliffe’s lab at UNL is known as Team Scarab, and he was responsible for bringing to UNL the U.S. National Collection of Scarab Beetles from the Smithsonian Institution for a lengthy period of off-site enhancement. The scarab beetle collection at Nebraska is among the five largest in the world.