Neochlamisus beetles are small (around 3 to 4 mm) and nearly cubical. Like other beetles in the Chlamisini (a tribe in the leaf beetle subfamily Cryptocephalinae), adult Neochlamisus beetles have a tuberculate ("warty") dorsal body surface, legs that tuck neatly into depressions, and antennal grooves adjacent to the prosternal process into which the short serrate antennae fit. These features give them the ability to tightly withdraw all appendages to form a compact cylinder and successfully mimic small flower buds, caterpillar droppings, or other forms of debris or excrement. (Chamorro-Lacayo and Konstantinov 2009)
The 17 nominal species of Neochlamisus are distributed in the southwestern United States and Mexico (the five species constituting the velutinus species group) and eastern North America (the 12 species constituting the gibbosus species group) (Karren 1972). The adult beetles feed, mate, and lay eggs on their host plants. Larval development, pupation, and adult emergence all take place entirely on the host plant as well. Thus, other than flying between host plants to find mates and oviposition sites, all life activities occur on the host plant. (Funk 2010)
Neochlamisus beetles and their close relatives use their fecal material to construct cases within which their larvae develop. Females lay individual eggs on host plants and meticulously fashion a protective egg case using plates of their compressed fecal matter. Hatchling larvae cut away the "roof" of this case, but remain within it, turning it upside down and walking with head and legs projecting from this opening, continually expanding it with their own fecal material during growth. Larvae feed on the host throughout development and seal the case opening to the substrate just prior to pupation. (Chaboo et al. 2008; Funk 2010 and references therein) Brown and Funk (2010) specifically examined how fecal cases protect N. platani from attack by other arthropods and discovered an important protective role for host-plant trichomes (plant hairs) incorporated into the case, a novel example of a physical plant defense (trichomes) co-opted by an herbivore.
A range of studies of closely related Neochlamisus forms have provided support for the role of ecologically driven diversification in speciation, i.e., the evolution of reproductive isolation via the divergent adaptation of populations to alternative environments. (Funk 1998; Funk et al. 2002; Funk et al. 2006; Egan and Funk 2009; Funk 2010) Funk (2010) provides a recent thorough review of Neochlamisus biology and investigations into ecological speciation in this group.
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