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Lundy invertebrates: Britain’s little Galapagos

Lundy has been described as Britain’s Galapagos in miniature. Lundy Cabbage Coincya wrightii has evolved here in isolation to become one of Britain’s few endemic plants. Lundy Cabbage in turn supports the endemic Bronze Lundy Cabbage Flea-beetle Psylliodes luridipennis and two other beetles of uncertain taxonomic status: Lundy Cabbage Weevil, a pale-legged form (form pallipes) of the weevil Ceutorhynchus contractus, and Blue Lundy Cabbage Flea-beetle, a flightless variety of Psylliodes napi (Compton, Key and Key, 2002).

Lundy and its Cabbage

Before leaving Lundy on the afternoon sailing of the MS Oldenburg on 7th May, I spent a few hours searching for invertebrates in Millcombe Valley. I concentrated on the beetles associated with Lundy Cabbage, mostly by tapping plants over a tray. The Lundy Cabbage Weevil was abundant with several in every tap-sample. Flea-beetles were a different story and it took over half an hour to find the first one. I eventually found a total of 6 flea-beetles and although at the time I thought, disappointingly, they were all Blue LCFb’s, there were actually three of each. In the field the two Flea-beetles are very similar but Bronze LCFb has a more bronze-green and less shining appearance, with paler antennae. A bit worrying to find so few Bronze LCFb’s but all three individuals were teneral so it is likely that the beetles will be more numerous later in the season.

Lundy Cabbage Weevil

Lundy has one other speciality beetle that I was keen to see: Melanophthalma distinguenda. Despite the ‘distinguenda’ name it is anything but distinguished – this is yet another little brown job from the Latridiidae family, associated with moulds and detritus. It has been known from Lundy since before 1931 and in 1995, A.J. Parsons discovered it further up the Bristol Channel on Steep Holm by examining loose gravel on a path. It is not known from anywhere else in Britain and its world range otherwise includes France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Hungary and Italy. I didn’t hold out much hope of finding it, and hadn’t expected it to be associated with the Lundy Cabbage. But I found 6 by tapping Lundy Cabbage plants and by sieving litter from around their roots. It doesn’t appear to have been recorded from Lundy for more than 40 years!

A single Rose Chafer Cetonia aurata was nice to see and a short walk north along the coastal path revealed a few Green Tiger-beetles Cicindela campestris, including a mating pair.

Rose Chafer

mating Tigers

Compton, S.G., Key, R.S. and Key, R.J.D. (2002). Conserving our little Galapagos – Lundy, Lundy Cabbage and its beetles. British Wildlife, 13, 184 – 190.

1 Comment

  1. Good to hear about the Lundy trip Mark, brought back vivid memories of the holiday I had over there, although I’m shocked to discover that was 18 years ago! The most unusual species I saw was the rare micro-moth Nothris congressariella, caterpillars of which I saw feeding on Balm-leaved Figwort, but rare invertebrates aside it’s just a magical place, and the sea-birds and other marine wildlife are fantastic.

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