Within Cheirotonus parryi’s range there are two other species of Cheirotonus which look very similar and can often be difficult to identify:
- Cheirotonus macleayi in India
- Cheirotonus gestroi in Laos, Thailand and Burma
At first glance, all three species look identical apart from the marbling on the elytra being slightly different. But on closer inspection, the forelegs of the males are all very different:
- C.parryi compared with C.macleayi - though the median spines are a similar length, the length of the terminal spine in C.macleayi (A) is considerably shorter
- C.parryi compared with C.gestroi - the median spine is considerably shorter in C.gestroi (B) compared with its terminal spine
C gestroi and C.macleayi do not occur together at all.The females can be identified by looking at the pygidium - the tip of the abdomen - as the hair structures differ:
- C.parryi has a tuft of hair right at the tip
- C.gestroi and C.macleayi have a sparse covering of hair along the base of the pygdium
With the elongated forelegs of the males, Cheirotonus parryi is one of the most charismatic of all beetle species. John Edward Gray first described Cheirotonus parryi in the Transactions of the Entomological Society of London in 1848.Today marks the 200th birthday of an important English entomologist, Major Frederick John Sidney Parry (28th October 1810 – 1st February 1885), after whom the beetle is named.Parry joined the 17th Lancers in 1831 and went on to become a major in the British Army. He became a Fellow of both the Entomological Society of London in 1840 and the Linnean Society in 1842. He published on all families of Coleoptera but it is his work on the Lucanidae or stag beetles that he will be remembered for, with a large part of his extensive collection residing here at the Natural History Museum.Parry has many other species of beetle named in his honour by revered contemporaries including Wallace, Bates and Hope.
Adult Cheirotonus parryi, like all other species in the genus, have a green pronotum and dark, orange-spotted elytra.The adult male reaches a body length of 6.5cm (the female, 6cm). The outstretched forelegs of the male can be an additional 8cm.The male and females look alike except for the very long legs which are only found in the males. The different appearance of the male and female, known as sexual dimorphism, is common in many other scarab beetle species.It is unclear why these beetles have developed such incredibly long legs, though it is thought they are used to hold the female during mating.The female lays eggs in decomposing wood and the larvae develop by feeding on this substrate. The larvae play an important ecological role in recycling nutrients and dead matter.The life cycle is thought to take 3--4 years in the wild though this is shorter in captivity.
Cheirotonus parryi is distributed from the Himalayan foothills of India in the east through to Burma, Laos and Thailand.The type specimen was collected by Major Parry in Sylhet - modern day Bangladesh. This specimen is in the Natural History Museum collections.Its habitat is the verdant forests of the highland regions, where at least 1,000mm of rain falls a year.The larvae of the beetle develop in rotting wood of large trees and are often found in standing dead trees. The survival of the species is therefore restricted to large stands of primary forest which have not been deforested.