14 Oct

Credit: George Tordoff

A team of ecologists have discovered a rare species of 'skin eating' beetle living on Flat Holm Island off the coast of Cardiff, making it the first of its kind to be recorded in Wales.

The dermestes undulatus beetle, which also hasn't been sighted in England since 2020, was found by a group from the South East Wales Biodiversity Records Centre, although it is said to be a mystery how it got out to the island in the first place.

Other notable finds during the bioblitz of Flat Holm included a rare Scarlet Berry Truffle, microscopic cup fungi, tiny moths that live inside bracken stems, and an amazingly well-camouflaged Burnished Brass Moth.

Flat Holm Community Engagement Officer, Sarah Morgan, said:

"It's not for the squeamish, but these tiny beetles feed on the skin, fur and bones of dead animals - Dermestes literally means skin eater. It's a preference that makes them a bit of a pain in museum collections, but incredibly useful in forensic science to help determine how long a body has been in situ.

Morgan continued:

"Exactly how the beetle made it out to the island is a bit of a mystery, given that they appear to be completely absent from the mainland now, but it's possible they were brought by gulls carrying scavenged remains.

"Without the team at South East Wales Biodiversity Records Centre we might never have known about the beetles, so a big thank you has to go to them."

The so-called 'bioblitz' formed part of the Flat Holm - A Walk Through Time project, funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

The dermestes undulatus beetle was found just a short distance away from the coast of Cardiff - on Flat Holm Island

Cabinet member for Culture, Parks and Events at Cardiff Council, Jennifer Burke, has described Flat Holm Island as a "haven for nature".

She said:

"We already knew that Flat Holm island was a haven for nature - it was the first island in Wales to achieve bee-friendly status, it's home to a colony of protected lesser black-backed gulls, as well as slow worms, wild leeks and much more - but with recent research showing that one in six species is at risk of extinction, this new find makes it even more important that we continue our work to protect and conserve the island's unique habitat."

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