Overview

Brief Summary

Introduction

The Coleoptera, or beetles, includes many commonly encountered insects such as ladybird beetles (family Coccinellidae), click beetles (Elateridae), scarabs (Scarabaeidae), and fireflies (Lampyridae). They live throughout the world (except Antarctica), but are most speciose in the tropics.

The oldest beetle fossils are from the Lower Permian (about 265 million years old; Ponomarenko, 1995); since then the group has diversified into many different forms. They range in size from minute featherwing beetles (Ptiliidae), adults of which are as small as 0.3 mm long, to the giant Goliath and Hercules beetles (Scarabaeidae), which can be well over 15 cm. While most species are phytophagous, many are predacious, or fungivores, or are parasitoids. They communicate to one another in many ways, either by use of chemicals (e.g. pheromones), sounds (e.g. stridulation), or by visual means (e.g. fireflies). They live in rainforest canopies, the driest deserts, in lakes, and above treeline on mountains.

In one sense the most unusual property of beetles is not some aspect of their structure or natural history, but their sheer number. There are more known species of Coleoptera than any other group of organisms, with over 350,000 described species. Perhaps the most famous quote about beetles comes from the great population geneticist J.B.S. Haldane, who was asked what might be learned about a Creator by examining the world. His response: "an inordinate fondness for beetles" (Fisher, 1988).

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Coleoptera Overview

Order Coleoptera has the most insect species.  Beetles can be found throughout the world and can vary from a millimeter to 75 millimeters in length.  They have an open circulatory system that uses fluid instead of blood.  Most beetles have two pairs of wings, one pair is hardened and the other pair is membranous.  Their antennae are mostly used for their sense of smell.  They have spiracles, which are breathing holes on their abdomen.  Most beetles feed on plants, but other species are predaceous.  Some species are aquatic and have a hard exoskeleton.  Some species are sexually dimorphic.  This can be seen when males have horns on their head.  Most beetles undergo complete metamorphosis.  They go through several stages from: the egg, the grub, the pupa, and the adult (also known as an imago).  Most beetles have a gland that produces pheromones to attract a mate.  Beetles can be found in the fossil record as far back as the Lower Permian.  People release beetles to control common pests, for instance, ladybugs are released into gardens to control aphid populations. 

  • "Beetle." Wikipedia. 2013. .
  • Borror, Donald, Charles Triplehorn, and Norman Johnson. An Introduction to the
  • Study of Insects. 6th ed. Saunders College Publishing, 1989. 370-478. Print.
  • Maddison, David R. 2000. Coleoptera. Beetles. Version 11 September 2000 (under construction). http://tolweb.org/Coleoptera/8221/2000.09.11 in The Tree of Life Web Project, http://tolweb.org/
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Comprehensive Description

The Suborders of Coleoptera

The four living suborders of beetles diverged from one another in the Permian and early Triassic, and are substantially different from one another. Adults differ in the structure of the prothorax, hind wing, abdomen, ovary, testes, and so on. The major differences are summarized in a table.

Polyphaga is by far the largest suborder, containing 85% of the known species, including rove beetles, scarabs, stag beetles, metallic wood-boring beetles, click beetles, fireflies, blister beetles, mealworms, ladybirds, leaf beetles, longhorn beetles, and weevils. Many are phytophagous. Adephaga includes ground beetles, tiger beetles, predacious diving beetles, and whirligig beetles; most adephagans are predacious. Myxophaga is a small suborder, containing less than 100 known species, whose members are small or minute, and associated with hygropetric habitats, drift material, or interstitial habitats among sand grains. Archostemata contains several families of beetles, most associated with wood; members of this family are somewhat similar to some of the earliest, Paleozoic beetle fossils.

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Characteristics

The most distinctive feature of beetles is the hardening of the forewings into elytra; it is from this that they get their formal name (koleos - sheath, pteron - wing). The elytra serve to protect the more delicate hind wings, as well as the dorsal surface of the abdomen, and may have been a key factor allowing them to exploit narrow passageways (for example, in leaf litter and under bark). During flight the forewings are opened enough to allow the hind wings to unfold and function:

Other derived characteristics of beetles are:

  • hind wings folded under elytra, with reduced venation
  • hind two thoracic segments (mesothorax+metathorax=pterothorax) broadly connected with abdomen, so that the primary functional units of body are head / prothorax / pterothorax + abdomen, rather than the more typical head / thorax / abdomen of many other insects.
  • genitalia retracted into abdomen
  • adult antenna with 11 articles

Beetles are holometabolous insects, normally with adecticous, exarate pupae. Most species have chewing mouthparts. There is a gula present on the undersurface of the head.

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Distribution

Geographic Range

Beetles are the most diverse group of insects. There are over 300,000 species known to science, and probably many tens of thousands more still unknown. Beetles are found on land and in fresh water all over the world.

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Introduced , Native ); palearctic (Introduced , Native ); oriental (Introduced , Native ); ethiopian (Introduced , Native ); neotropical (Introduced , Native ); australian (Introduced , Native ); oceanic islands (Introduced , Native )

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Physical Description

Morphology

Physical Description

Beetles are like all insects, they have a head, thorax, and abdomen, and six legs. Their bodies tend to be very solid and tough. They have chewing mouthparts and often have powerful jaws. Adult beetles have modified wings: the first pair of wings is small and very hard, and acts as a protective covering for the second pair of wings. Many beetles can fly with their second pair of wings. Most adult beetles are brown or black, but some are very brightly colored. Beetle larvae look sort of like worms, but they have six legs and a hard head. Beetle pupa can't move and are covered with a leathery skin.

Other Physical Features: ectothermic ; heterothermic ; bilateral symmetry ; polymorphic ; poisonous

Sexual Dimorphism: sexes alike; female larger; male larger; sexes colored or patterned differently; sexes shaped differently; ornamentation

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Ecology

Habitat

Beetles are found in just about every habitat. Most species live on plants, others tunnel or burrow, some swim.

Habitat Regions: temperate ; tropical ; polar ; terrestrial ; freshwater

Terrestrial Biomes: tundra ; taiga ; desert or dune ; chaparral ; forest ; rainforest ; scrub forest ; mountains

Aquatic Biomes: lakes and ponds; rivers and streams

Wetlands: marsh ; swamp ; bog

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Trophic Strategy

Food Habits

Beetles eat all kinds of food. Most are specialists in few kinds, but some, like ground beetles, eat lots of things. Most beetles eat plant parts, either leaves or seeds or fruit or wood. Many are predators on other small animals. Some eat fungus, and there are a bunch of species that eat dung. Sometimes the larvae eat different foods than the adults do.

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Associations

Flowering Plants Visited by Agapostemon virescens in Illinois

Agapostemon virescens Fabricius: Halictidae (Halictinae), Hymenoptera
(observations are by Robertson, Graenicher, Reed, Moure & Hurd, Evans, Clinebell, and Daly)

Acanthaceae: Justicia americana sn (Rb), Ruellia humilis cp np (Rb); Alismataceae: Sagittaria latifolia [stam sn] [pist sn] (Rb); Anacardiaceae: Rhus glabra [stam sn cp] [pist sn] (Rb); Apiaceae: Cicuta maculata sn (Rb), Zizia aurea sn (Rb); Asteraceae: Achillea millefolium (Re), Arctium lappa sn cp (Gr), Aster drummondii sn (Gr), Aster ericoides (Re), Aster laevis sn cp (Gr), Aster lanceolatus sn cp (Gr, Re), Aster lateriflorus sn cp (Rb, Gr), Aster nova-angliae sn (Gr), Aster ontarionis (Re), Aster oolentangiensis (Re), Aster pilosus sn cp fq (Rb), Aster turbinellus sn (Rb), Bidens aristosa sn cp (Rb), Cirsium altissimum sn (Rb), Cirsium arvense sn cp (Gr, Re), Cirsium discolor (MH), Cirsium vulgare sn cp (Rb, Gr), Coreopsis palmata (MH), Echinacea pallida sn (Rb, Cl), Echinacea purpurea sn cp (Rb, Cl), Erigeron philadelphicus sn cp (Rb, Gr), Eupatorium serotinum sn fq (Rb), Helenium autumnale sn (Rb, Gr), Helianthus annuus sn fq (Rb), Helianthus grosseserratus sn (Rb), Helianthus mollis sn (Rb), Helianthus pauciflorus (Re), Helianthus strumosus sn cp (Gr), Heliopsis helianthoides sn cp (Rb, Re), Krigia biflora sn cp (Rb), Liatris aspera (Re), Liatris pycnostachya sn cp fq (Rb, Cl), Oligoneuron rigidum (Ev), Pyrrhopappus carolinianus cp (MH, Da), Ratibida pinnata (Re), Rudbeckia hirta sn cp (Rb, Ev, Re), Silphium laciniatum sn cp (Rb), Silphium perfoliatum sn cp fq (Rb), Solidago nemoralis (Ev), Verbesina helianthoides sn (Rb), Vernonia fasciculata sn (Rb); Campanulaceae: Lobelia spicata sn (Rb); Caprifoliaceae: Symphoricarpos albus sn (Gr), Symphoricarpos occidentalis sn (MH, Gr); Commelinaceae: Tradescantia virginiensis cp (Rb); Convolvulaceae: Calystegia sepium sn (Rb), Ipomoea purpurea sn (Rb); Cornaceae: Cornus obliqua sn cp (Rb), Cornus racemosa sn cp (Rb); Dipsacaceae: Dipsacus fullonum sn (Rb); Ebenaceae: Diospyros virginiana [stam sn cp np] [pist sn np] (Rb); Fabaceae: Dalea purpurea sn cp fq (Rb, Re), Melilotus alba sn (Rb), Trifolium repens sn cp (Rb); Geraniaceae: Geranium maculatum sn (Rb); Hypericaceae: Hypericum sphaerocarpum cp (Rb); Lamiaceae: Blephilia ciliata sn cp fq (Rb), Blephilia hirsuta sn (Rb), Monarda fistulosa (Re, Cl), Nepeta cataria sn (Rb), Pycnanthemum pilosum sn fq (Rb), Stachys palustris sn (Rb), Teucrium canadense sn (Rb); Liliaceae: Camassia scilloides sn (Rb); Lythraceae: Lythrum alatum sn (Rb); Malvaceae: Malva neglecta sn cp fq (Rb); Nyctaginaceae: Mirabilis nyctaginea (Re); Nymphaeaceae: Nymphaea tuberosa cp fq (Rb); Onagraceae: Oenothera biennis cp (Rb), Oenothera pilosella cp fq np (Rb); Oxalidaceae: Oxalis violacea sn (Rb); Rhamnacae: Ceanothus americanus (MH); Rosaceae: Rosa blanda cp (Re), Rosa carolina cp (Rb), Rosa setigera cp fq (Rb), Rubus allegheniensis sn (Rb), Rubus flagellaris sn cp (Rb); Rubiaceae: Cephalanthus occidentalis sn (Rb), Houstonia longifolia (Ev); Rutaceae: Ptelea trifoliata sn (Rb); Scrophulariaceae: Linaria vulgaris sn np (Rb), Penstemon digitalis cp np (Rb), Penstemon grandiflorus cp np (Re), Scrophularia marilandica sn (Rb), Verbascum thapsus cp (Rb), Veronicastrum virginicum sn (Rb); Verbenaceae: Phyla lanceolata sn (Rb), Verbena stricta sn fq (Rb)

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Ecosystem Roles

Beetles have lots of roles. Dung beetles help get rid of waste, beetles that eat wood help break down dead trees, some beetles feed on pollen and help pollinate flowers.

Ecosystem Impact: pollinates; biodegradation

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Predation

Most beetles hide, and many beetle larvae dig tunnels to hide in. Some rely on their hard shell. Some, like lady beetles, have toxic chemicals to repel predators. Some can bite. Some, like ground beetles, run fast.

Known Predators:

  • Talpidae
  • Soricidae
  • Sigmodontinae
  • Muridae
  • Mephitis mephitis (like beetle larvae)
  • Piciformes
  • other Aves 
  • Anura
  • Anura
  • Caudata
  • other Coleoptera 
  • Actinopterygii
  • Hymenoptera
  • Formicidae
  • Araneae (when they can bite through the shell)

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Fungus / infection vector
Basidiobolus ranarum is spread by Coleoptera

In Great Britain and/or Ireland:
Fungus / feeder
Coleoptera feeds on spore mass of fruitbody of Phallus hadriani

Plant / pollenated
adult of Coleoptera pollenates or fertilises flower of Coeloglossum viride

Plant / pollenated
adult of Coleoptera pollenates or fertilises flower of Dactylorhiza fuchsii

Plant / pollenated
adult of Coleoptera pollenates or fertilises flower of
Other: major host/prey

Animal / pathogen
colony of Hirsutella anamorph of Cordyceps entomorrhiza infects Coleoptera

Animal / associate
larva (1st year) of Dinoptera collaris is associated with disused wood-boring galleries of Coleoptera

Animal / pathogen
Entomophthora coleopterorum infects larva of Coleoptera

Animal / predator
nymph of Orthotylus tenellus is predator of egg of Coleoptera

Animal / predator
leaf of Pinguicula vulgaris is predator of adult of Coleoptera
Other: minor host/prey

Animal / predator
adult of Troilus luridus is predator of adult of Coleoptera

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Known predators

Coleoptera is prey of:
Amia calva
Nematocera imagines
Passerina cyanea
Hylocichla mustelina
Geothlypis trichas
Picoides pubescens
Baeolophus bicolor
Vireo olivaceus
Melanerpes erythrocephalus
Hymenoptera
Sitta pygmaea
Dendroica coronata
Phrynosoma
Sialia
Junco hyemalis
Spizella passerina
Turdus migratorius
Leucosticte atrata
Anthus spinoletta
Eremophila alpestris
Scolopacidae
Araneae
Cicindelidae
Camponotus pennsylvanicus
Rodentia
Serpentes
Varanidae
Erinaceus europaeus
Vulpes vulpes
Calcarius mccownii
Calcarius ornatus
Spermophilus
Calamospiza melanocorys
Asilidae
Peromyscus maniculatus
Orthoptera
Athene cunicularia
Salvelinus fontinalis
Saurothera vieilloti
Otus nudipes
Amphisbaena caeca
Herpestes auropunctatus
Eleutherodactylus coqui
Eleutherodactylus richmondi
Eleutherodactylus portoricensis
Eleutherodactylus wightmanae
Eleutherodactylus eneidae
Eleutherodactylus hedricki
Melanerpes portoricensis
Todus mexicanus
Mimocichla plumbea
Margarops fuscatus
Anolis cuvieri
Anolis evermanni
Anolis stratulus
Anolis gundlachi
Myiarchus antillarum
Vireo latimeri
Nesospingus speculiferus
Icterus dominicensis
Vireo altiloquus
Seiurus aurocapillus
Seiurus motacilla
Sphaerodactylus klauberi
Sphaerodactylus macrolepis
Diploglossus pleei
Bufo marinus
Chlorostilbon maugeus
Anthracothorax viridis
Mniotilta varia
Parula americana
Dendroica caerulescens
Dendroica discolor
Setophaga ruticilla
Coereba flaveola
Loxigilla portoricensis
Typhlops rostellatus
Odonata
Gonatista grisea
Hemiptera
Coleoptera
Diptera
Eptesicus fuscus
Pteronotus parnelli
Spindalis zena
Falco sparverius
Tyrannus dominicensis
Elaenia
Dendroica petechia
Loxigilla noctis
Trochilidae
Anolis gingivinus
Anolis pogus
Chilopoda

Based on studies in:
USA: Florida, South Florida (Swamp)
Russia (Agricultural)
USA: Illinois (Forest)
USA: Arizona (Forest, Montane)
USA: Montana (Tundra)
India, Rajasthan Desert (Desert or dune)
USA: California, Cabrillo Point (Grassland)
Puerto Rico, El Verde (Rainforest)
USA: Alaska (Tundra)
Canada: Ontario, Mad River (River)

This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
  • L. D. Harris and G. B. Bowman, Vertebrate predator subsystem. In: Grasslands, Systems Analysis and Man, A. I. Breymeyer and G. M. Van Dyne, Eds. (International Biological Programme Series, no. 19, Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge, England, 1980), pp. 591-
  • N. N. Smirnov, Food cycles in sphagnous bogs, Hydrobiologia 17:175-182, from p. 179 (1961).
  • A. C. Twomey, The bird population of an elm-maple forest with special reference to aspection, territorialism, and coactions, Ecol. Monogr. 15(2):175-205, from p. 202 (1945).
  • D. I. Rasmussen, Biotic communities of Kaibab Plateau, Arizona, Ecol. Monogr. 11(3):228-275, from p. 261 (1941).
  • J. Brown, Ecological investigations of the Tundra biome in the Prudhoe Bay Region, Alaska, Special Report, no. 2, Biol. Pap. Univ. Alaska (1975), from p. xiv.
  • W. E. Ricker, 1934. An ecological classification of certain Ontario streams. Univ. Toronto Studies, Biol. Serv. 37, Publ. Ontario Fish. Res. Lab. 49:7-114, from pp. 78, 89.
  • L. D. Harris and L. Paur, A quantitative food web analysis of a shortgrass community, Technical Report No. 154, Grassland Biome. U.S. International Biological Program (1972), from p. 17.
  • D. L. Pattie and N. A. M. Verbeek, Alpine birds of the Beartooth Mountains, Condor 68:167-176 (1966); Alpine mammals of the Beartooth Mountains, Northwest Sci. 41(3):110-117 (1967).
  • I. K. Sharma, A study of ecosystems of the Indian desert, Trans. Indian Soc. Desert Technol. and Univ. Center Desert Stud. 5(2):51-55, from p. 52 and A study of agro-ecosystems in the Indian desert, ibid. 5:77-82, from p. 79 1980).
  • Waide RB, Reagan WB (eds) (1996) The food web of a tropical rainforest. University of Chicago Press, Chicago
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Known prey organisms

Coleoptera preys on:
Plectoptera
Odonata
Hemiptera
Psectrocladius
Rotifera
Cladocera
Chironomidae
detritus

alpine vegetation
Diptera
Eleucine
Cyperus
Cenchrus
Artemisia frigida
Bouteloua gracilis
Oenothera laciniata
Psoralidium tenuiflorum
Hesperostipa comata
Heterotheca canescens
Aristida purpurea
Carex
Gutierrezia
Ratibida columnifera
Ericameria nauseosa
Cleome serrulata
Liatris punctata
Atriplex canescens
Thelesperma filifolium
Coleoptera
Acari
Collembola
Isoptera
live leaves
live wood
roots
pollen
fruit
seeds
flowers
fungi
Isopoda
nectar and floral
leaves
wood
Miniopterus australis

Based on studies in:
USA: Florida, South Florida (Swamp)
Russia (Agricultural)
Puerto Rico, El Verde (Rainforest)
USA: Illinois (Forest)
USA: Arizona (Forest, Montane)
USA: Montana (Tundra)
USA: California, Cabrillo Point (Grassland)
USA: Alaska (Tundra)
India, Rajasthan Desert (Desert or dune)

This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
  • L. D. Harris and G. B. Bowman, Vertebrate predator subsystem. In: Grasslands, Systems Analysis and Man, A. I. Breymeyer and G. M. Van Dyne, Eds. (International Biological Programme Series, no. 19, Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge, England, 1980), pp. 591-
  • N. N. Smirnov, Food cycles in sphagnous bogs, Hydrobiologia 17:175-182, from p. 179 (1961).
  • A. C. Twomey, The bird population of an elm-maple forest with special reference to aspection, territorialism, and coactions, Ecol. Monogr. 15(2):175-205, from p. 202 (1945).
  • D. I. Rasmussen, Biotic communities of Kaibab Plateau, Arizona, Ecol. Monogr. 11(3):228-275, from p. 261 (1941).
  • J. Brown, Ecological investigations of the Tundra biome in the Prudhoe Bay Region, Alaska, Special Report, no. 2, Biol. Pap. Univ. Alaska (1975), from p. xiv.
  • L. D. Harris and L. Paur, A quantitative food web analysis of a shortgrass community, Technical Report No. 154, Grassland Biome. U.S. International Biological Program (1972), from p. 17.
  • D. L. Pattie and N. A. M. Verbeek, Alpine birds of the Beartooth Mountains, Condor 68:167-176 (1966); Alpine mammals of the Beartooth Mountains, Northwest Sci. 41(3):110-117 (1967).
  • I. K. Sharma, A study of ecosystems of the Indian desert, Trans. Indian Soc. Desert Technol. and Univ. Center Desert Stud. 5(2):51-55, from p. 52 and A study of agro-ecosystems in the Indian desert, ibid. 5:77-82, from p. 79 1980).
  • Waide RB, Reagan WB (eds) (1996) The food web of a tropical rainforest. University of Chicago Press, Chicago
  • Myers, P., R. Espinosa, C. S. Parr, T. Jones, G. S. Hammond, and T. A. Dewey. 2006. The Animal Diversity Web (online). Accessed February 16, 2011 at http://animaldiversity.org. http://www.animaldiversity.org
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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Communication and Perception

Most beetles communicate with other beetles with chemicals. Males often locate females by their scent. Beetles usually can't see very well. Some beetle make sounds, usually scraping their mouthparts together or rubbing their legs on their bodies. Some beetles that live in dead wood drum and make vibrations. "Fireflies' and "lightning bugs' are actually beetles. They glow in the dark to communicate.

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Life Cycle

Development

Beetles have four different stages in their life cycle. Adult female beetles mate and lay eggs. The eggs hatch into a larval stage that is wingless. The larva feed and grow, and eventually change into a pupal stage. The pupa does not move or feed. Eventually the pupa transforms into an adult beetle.

Development - Life Cycle: metamorphosis

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Life Expectancy

Lifespan/Longevity

Most beetle species complete their lives in a single year. Some, especially larger ones, live for more than a year, hatching in summer, a few months to a year or more as a larva and pupa, and then emerging to reproduce as an adult.

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Reproduction

Mating System: monogamous

Female beetles usually lay dozens or hundreds of eggs. Reproduction is often timed to match the time of most available food.

Breeding season: Breeding season varies, often in spring or summer

Key Reproductive Features: semelparous ; iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; year-round breeding ; sexual ; fertilization (Internal ); ovoviviparous ; oviparous

Adult beetles mate, and the female lays eggs on or very near a food source for her larvae. Some beetles collect a supply of food for their larvae, and lay the egg in the ball of food. Some scavenger beetles even feed their babies.

Parental Investment: no parental involvement; male parental care ; female parental care

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Evolution and Systematics

Evolution

Discussion of Phylogenetic Relationships

View Coleoptera Tree

Tree from Beutel (1997) and Beutel and Haas (2000).

Compared to the other four large orders of insects (Hemiptera, Hymenoptera, Diptera, and Lepidoptera), the phylogenetic relationships of the major lineages of beetles are relatively poorly known. Only recently has some of the morphological data been examined phylogenetically (e.g., Beutel, 1997; Beutel and Haas, 2000), and molecular sequence information is only now being gathered.

There are several competing hypotheses regarding subordinal relationships. The two most widely discussed differ most strikingly in their placement of the suborder Polyphaga: this suborder is either the sister group of Myxophaga (Crowson, 1960, 1981; Machatschke, 1962; Klausnitzer, 1975; Beutel, 1997; Beutel and Haas, 2000), or the sister group of all remaining beetles (Lawrence and Newton, 1982; Kukalová-Peck and Lawrence, 1993), as shown in the following two figures:

Left: "Polyphaga+Myxophaga" hypothesis, right: "Basal Polyphaga" hypothesis of relationships among suborders of beetles.

Evidence for a close relationship of Polyphaga to Myxophaga includes the shared reduction in the number of larval leg articles (Crowson, 1960, 1981). Klausnitzer (1975) further considered the Adephaga as sister to Myxophaga + Polyphaga, based on completely sclerotized elytra, reduced number of crossveins in the hind wings, and folded (as opposed to rolled) hind wings of those three suborders.

Evidence for the alternative hypothesis, that Polyphaga is the sister group to remaining beetles, is based primarily on characters of wing structure, and on the loss of the cervical sclerites in the three suborders other than Polyphaga (Lawrence and Newton, 1982; Kukalová-Peck and Lawrence, 1993).

Recent cladistic analyses of some of the morphological data (Beutel, 1997; Beutel and Haas, 2000) supports the Polyphaga + Myxophaga hypothesis.

The composition of the clade Coleoptera is not in dispute, with the exception of the twisted-wing parasites, Strepsiptera. These odd insects have been regarded as related to the beetle families Rhipiphoridae and Meloidae, with which they share first instar larvae that are active, host-seeking triungulins and later instar larvae that are endoparasites of other insects (Crowson, 1981), or as the sister group of beetles (e.g. Kukulová-Peck and Lawrence, 1993), or more distantly related to insects (see further discussion in Strepsiptera).

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Functional Adaptations

Functional adaptation

Wings fold multiple times without wear: beetles
 

Wings of beetles fold multiple times without wear or fatigue by having resilin in key joints.

     
  "Beetles use their fore-wings for a different purpose altogether. These creatures are the heavy armoured tanks of the insect world and they spend a great deal of their time on the ground, barging their way through the vegetable litter, scrabbling in the soil or gnawing into wood. Such activities could easily damage delicate wings. The beetles protect theirs by turning the front pair into stiff thick covers which fit neatly over the top of the abdomen. The wings are stowed neatly beneath, carefully and ingeniously folded." (Attenborough 1979:79)


"This account shows the distribution of elastic elements in hind wings in the scarabaeid Pachnoda marginata and coccinellid Coccinella septempunctata  (both Coleoptera). Occurrence of resilin, a rubber–like protein, in  some mobile joints together with data on wing unfolding  and flight kinematics suggest that resilin in the  beetle wing has multiple functions. First, the distribution pattern of  resilin  in the wing correlates with the particular folding  pattern of the wing. Second, our data show that resilin occurs at the  places  where extra elasticity is needed, for example in  wing folds, to prevent material damage during repeated folding and  unfolding.  Third, resilin provides the wing with elasticity in  order to be deformable by aerodynamic forces. This may result in  elastic  energy storage in the wing." (Haas et al. 2000:1375)
  Learn more about this functional adaptation.
  • Attenborough, D. 1979. Life on earth. Boston, MA: Little, Brown and Company. 319 p.
  • Haas F; Gorb S; Blickhan R. 2000. The function of resilin in beetle wings. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B. 267(1451): 1375-1381.
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Functional adaptation

Wings are deployable: beetles
 

The wings of beetles are folded and stored under fore-wings and deploy for flight thanks to sprung wing joints.

   
  "Beetles use their fore-wings for a different purpose altogether. These creatures are the heavy armoured tanks of the insect world and they spend a great deal of their time on the ground, barging their way through the vegetable litter, scrabbling in the soil or gnawing into wood. Such activities could easily damage delicate wings. The beetles protect theirs by turning the front pair into stiff thick covers which fit neatly over the top of the abdomen. The wings are stowed neatly beneath, carefully and ingeniously folded. The wing veins have sprung joints in them. When the wing covers are lifted, the joints unlock and the wings spring open. As the beetle lumbers into the air, the stiff wing covers are usually held out to the side, a posture that inevitably hampers efficient flight. Flower beetles, however, have managed to deal with this problem. They have notches at the sides of the wing covers near the hinges so that the covers can be replaced over the abdomen leaving the wings extended and beating." (Attenborough 1979:79)
  Learn more about this functional adaptation.
  • Attenborough, D. 1979. Life on earth. Boston, MA: Little, Brown and Company. 319 p.
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Functional adaptation

Insect elytra resist shear and cracking: beetles
 

Elytra of beetles maintain integrity of their two layers by transforming forces through connecting bio-nails.

       
  "Nature is replete with examples of layered-structure materials that are evolved through billions of years to provide high performance. Insect elytra (a portion of the exoskeleton) have evoked worldwide research attention and are believed to serve as fuselages and wings of natural aircraft. This work focuses on the relationship between structure, mechanical behavior, and failure mechanisms of the elytra. We report a failure-mode-optimization (FMO) mechanism that can explain elytra's mechanical behaviors. We show initial evidence that this mechanism makes bio-structures of low-strength materials strong and ductile that can effectively resist shear forces and crack growth. A bio-inspired design of a joint by using the FMO mechanism has been proved by experiments to have a potential to increase the interface shear strength as high as about 2.5 times. The FMO mechanism, which is based on the new concept of property-structure synergetic coupling proposed in this work, offer some thoughts to deal with the notoriously difficult problem of interface strength and to reduce catastrophic failure events." (Fan et al. 2005:229)
  Learn more about this functional adaptation.
  • Fan, J.; Chen, B.; Gao, Z.; Xiang, C. 2005. Mechanisms in Failure Prevention of Bio-Materials and Bio-Structures. Mechanics of Advanced Materials and Structures. 12(3): 229-237.
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD) Stats
                                        
Specimen Records:223,881Public Records:122,619
Specimens with Sequences:151,440Public Species:6,380
Specimens with Barcodes:125,116Public BINs:23,345
Species:23,394         
Species With Barcodes:15,047         
          
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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Coleoptera 4CHRYS sp. 2CHRYS

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 1
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Coleoptera 4CHRYS sp. 1CHRYS

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 1
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Coleoptera 3CHRYS sp.CHRYS

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 1
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Coleoptera 2CHRYS sp.CHRYS

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 1
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Coleoptera 1CHRYS sp.CHRYS

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 1
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Barcode data

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Locations of barcode samples

Collection Sites: world map showing specimen collection locations for Coleoptera

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Conservation

Conservation Status

Most beetle species are abundant, and don't need to be especially conserved. Beetles that live in habitats that are getting changed or wiped out could be in trouble, and some beetles depend on certain plant species. If the plant goes, they go. There is a species of aquatic beetle that only lives in a few rivers in northern Michigan. It is considered endangered.

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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Beetle species are important pests because some of them eat our food. Some eat fruits or vegetable or other crops in the field, and others eat them in storage. Farmers have to spend lots of money and energy protecting their crops from beetles. Some beetles tunnel in wood, and these can kill or damage trees, or damage things we make from wood, like furniture, or even houses!

Negative Impacts: injures humans (bites or stings); crop pest; household pest

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Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Some beetle species are important predators of pests, and others do valuable clean-up jobs, getting rid of dung and breaking down dead plants. A few species are now being used to eat problem weed plants as well.

Positive Impacts: controls pest population

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Pollinator

Early beetles appear to have been among the primary visitors of primitive flowering plants. An improvement over wind pollination, beetles likely played an important role in the evolution of flowering plants.



Many familiar North American plants are pollinated by beetles. For example, plants in the magnolia family, including the eight species that are native to the United States, have flowers that are specialized for beetle pollination. In fact, though magnolia flowers are often described as "primitive" (relatively unchanged from the ancestral type), some researchers have suggested that magnolia flowers are actually quite specialized and have evolved to promote nearly exclusive pollination by beetles. The beetles appear to be attracted by the odor of the flowers - which is sometimes described as unpleasant - as well as their color. They feed on nectar, stigmas, pollen, and secretions of the petals. Other insects appear to be unable to access magnolia flowers at critical times, while stigmas are mature or while pollen is shed. At least some magnolia species, including one species in Mexico, produce heat.



Odor, often foul or unpleasant, is thought to act as a primary attractant for many beetle and fly pollinators. Beetle-pollinated plants additionally produce heat. The odor may mimic a food source; the heat is thought to help spread the odor and/or provide a direct energetic benefit to pollinating insects

  • The Role of Odoriferous Chemical Compounds and Thermogenesis in the Pollination Ecology of Certain Plant Species, Phyllis M. Pineda, Colorado State University Department of Entomology
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