The Chilean beetle fauna still remains poorly understood in general and inadequately represented in Chilean and other museums. There is an urgent need for intensive taxonomic and curatorial work to develop beetle and spider collections that accurately represent Chile’s biodiversity and are accessible to students and researchers in Chile and elsewhere. The intellectual value of the fauna of Valdivian temperate rain forests is widely recognized, however the fauna is difficult to access and its detailed study is beyond the present financial means of Chile and Argentina. Our collections and their distribution worldwide to scientists have helped authorities to better understand the biodiversity of the temperate rain forests and to enrich the MNNC collections in Chile.
Beetles are by far the most species-rich life form on Earth. They comprise up to a fifth of all described species, which is more than twice the number of all described species in any other insect order (Grove & Stork 2000). They are a taxon with a great variety of forms, colors, sizes, and life histories. Beetles have proven to be excellent study organisms in a variety of habitats for various ecological, biogeographically, and biodiversity studies (Erwin and Scott, 1981; Erwin, 1983, 1987, 1991; Arias, 2000; Lawrence, 1985; Newton, 1985; Thayer, 1985; Kuschel, 1987; Morrone, 1992a, b, c; Roig-Juñent, 1993; Morrone, et al., 1994, Arias et al., 2008). The taxonomy of some groups of beetles is relatively well developed, whereas the testing of generic and tribal-level concepts using cladistic methods is just beginning in others (Carabidae: Will, 2000, 2002; Shull, et al., 2001; Ober, 2002).
Beetles may be crucial to understanding the age and origin of temperate southern continent faunal disjunctions. Sequeira & Farrel (2001), Farrel (1998), Thayer (1985), Lawrence (1985), Newton (1985), and Morrone (1992) have treated beetle phylogenetics in terms of southern hemisphere connections, and Roig-Juñent, (1993) dealt with older Pangaean relationships. Thayer’s 1985 study of the genus Metacorneolabium (Staphylinidae) shows a sister-group relationship between New Zealand, Australia, and southern South America, with multiple connections between the latter two areas. Will (2000) found a repeated pattern of Gondwanan elements in pterostichiine ground beetles Carabidae. Beetles may also offer insight into the large scale evolution of ecosystems The number of Chilean beetle species reported is 4,237 (Elgueta, 2000), which represents about 1% of the 417,000 beetle species worldwide. Hammond (1992) suggests the worldwide number of beetle species may be as high as 9.4 million, with tropical species at least five times more numerous than non-tropical species. If we consider Hammond’s suggestion of almost 10 million species on Earth and accept that 27.8 % are beetles, the number of Chilean beetle species could be 27,000 or seven times those already described. Although this figure may be high, it is a provocative indication of the potential number of unreported coleopteran species in Chile. Understanding Chilean beetles may also provide unique taxonomic insights, e.g., discovery of the new taxon Capnosolius ariasae (Seago & Newton 2009), with nearest relatives in New Zealand, caused the authors to reconstruct the family limits and basal classification of Leiodidae.