These beetles are small- to medium-sized with a hard carapace. They are rather flat, long, and oval-shaped. The wing-covers are often bumpy or conspicuously ridged, brown or black, with an iridescent sheen. The eyes are rather large for a beetle. Adults occasionally visit flowers for pollen, while the larvae bore through the wood of various trees and shrubs, creating flattened tunnels.
Evolution and Systematics
Cuticle on the jaws of the jewel beetle larva is equivalent in hardness and stiffness to stainless steel through structural and biochemical pathways.
"The arthropod cuticle is a remarkable and versatile biological material commonly composed of chitin and proteins. Lessons can be learned from the way it is adapted to fit its functions. The larval jewel beetle, Pseudotaenia frenchi, demonstrates hardness in the cutting edge of the mandibles in excess of the mineralized carapace of stone crabs and compares favourably with some stainless steels. Yet this is a form of cuticle which is devoid of transition metals or mineralization. In seeming contradiction, the similarly dark coloured adult beetle mandibles contain the transition metal manganese, but are significantly softer. Energy dispersive X-ray analysis and infrared spectroscopy have been used to investigate the differences in composition of mandible cuticle of the adult and larval beetles…This study raises questions regarding the current understanding of the function of transition metals in cuticle. It also demonstrates that chitin-based biological materials devoid of biomineralization or metal incorporation can achieve better performance than previously documented." (Cribb et al. 2010:3152)
"The larval mandibular cuticle, measured either wet or dry, is harder than many other biological materials noted for their mechanical properties, including the mineralized stone crab carapace. It is also equivalent to the maximal hardness measured for a range of stainless steels. This larval material holds out promise that by analysing its hierarchical structure and chemistry further we can determine how such a biopolymer can reach previously unrecognized levels of performance." (Cribb et al. 2010:3156)
Learn more about this functional adaptation.
- Cribb B W; Lin C -L; Rintoul L; Rasch R; Hasenpusch J; Huang H. 2010. Hardness in arthropod exoskeletons in the absence of transition metals. Acta Biomaterialia. 6: 3152–3156.
Sensilla in the infrared sensory organ of the Melanophila acuminata beetle detect fire by a structure of lipids channeling photons to a protein region highly sensitive to hydrogen resonance.
"The Melanophila acuminata beetle is attracted to forest fires via a pair of infrared sensory organs composed of sensilla...Mathematical calculations showed that the physical properties of the sensilla are such that the expected temperature rise is insufficient for transduction of the infrared signal through mechanical means or as a thermal receptor as previously thought; hence the protein plays the pivotal role in perception of single photons and transmission of the signal within the sensilla." (Israelowitz et al. 2011:129)
"The Melanophila acuminata sensilla are composed of lipids that may channel the photons to the protein region. Similar to high order polymers like dendrimers, which are nanometer-sized macromolecules with regular units, the lipids form regular layers with a thickness of 100 nm. The lipid layers insulate the scattering of collisional energy and direct the energy towards the IR-absorbing tulip-shaped protein region. Protein hydrogen bonds vibrate in response to infrared radiation at wavelengths around 3 µm and at wavelengths between 10 µm and 25 µm. This stretch resonance corresponds at 3 µm with the data for maximal IR absorption as well as with behavioral and sensory response of the Melanophila acuminata. The presence of this protein provides an explanation for high sensitivity and the specificity of the beetle towards the narrow infrared windows likely via a photo-effect since protein, by consequence of hydrogen resonance, absorbs in the infrared wavelength." (Israelowitz et al. 2011:136)
Learn more about this functional adaptation.
- Israelowitz M; Kwon JA; Rizvi SWH; Gille C; von Schroeder HP. 2011. Mechanism of infrared detection and transduction by beetle Melanophila acuminata. Journal of Bionic Engineering. 8: 129–139.
- Klocke D; Schmitz A; Soltner H; Bousack H; Schmitz H. 2011. Infrared receptors in pyrophilous ("fire-loving“) insects as model for new uncooled infrared sensors. 2: 186-197.
The body surfaces of jewel beetles and other beetles create colors by reflecting lights at different wavelengths.
"The Buprestid beetles…as well as many ground-beetles (Carabidae), are different again in that the body surface producing the colour is hardened and quite permanent and sculptured into subtly varying shapes that reflect light at different wavelengths - blue, purple, green, bronze, silver and gold. The purple flush on the elytra of the ground-beetle, Carabus violaceus, is due to this cause, as are the metallic marks on various butterfly pupae." (Wootton 1984:140)
Learn more about this functional adaptation.
- Wootton, A. 1984. Insects of the World. Blandford. 224 p.
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Statistics of barcoding coverage
Specimens with Sequences:2989
Specimens with Barcodes:2460
Species With Barcodes:591
Buprestidae is a family of beetles, known as jewel beetles or metallic wood-boring beetles because of their glossy iridescent colors. The family is among the largest of the beetles, with some 15,000 species known in 450 genera. In addition, almost 100 fossil species have been described.
The larger and more spectacularly colored jewel beetles are highly prized by insect collectors. The elytra of some Buprestidae species have been traditionally used in beetlewing jewellery and decoration in certain countries in Asia, like India, Thailand and Japan.
Description and ecology
Shape is generally cylindrical or elongate to ovoid, with lengths ranging from 3 to 80 mm (0.12 to 3.15 in), although most species are under 20 mm (0.79 in). Catoxantha, Chrysaspis, Euchroma and Megaloxantha contain the largest species. a variety of bright colors are known, often in complicated patterns. The iridescence common to these beetles is not due to pigments in the exoskeleton, but instead physical iridescence in which microscopic texture in their cuticle selectively reflects specific frequencies of light in particular directions. This is the same effect that makes a compact disc reflect multiple colors.
The larvae bore through roots, logs, stems, and leaves of various types of plants, ranging from trees to grasses. The wood boring types generally favor dying or dead branches on otherwise-healthy trees, while a few types attack green wood; some of these are serious pests capable of killing trees and causing major economic damage, such as the invasive emerald ash borer. Some species are attracted to recently burned forests to lay their eggs. They can sense pine wood smoke from up to 50 miles away, and can see infrared light, helping them to zero in as they get closer to a forest fire.
Ten species of flatheaded borers of the family Buprestidae feed on spruce and fir, but hemlock is their preferred food source (Rose and Lindquist 1985). As with roundheaded borers, most feeding occurs in dying or dead trees, or close to injuries on living trees. Damage becomes abundant only where a continuing supply of breeding material is available. The life history of these borers is similar to that of the roundheaded borers, but some exceedingly long life cycles have been reported under adverse conditions. Full-grown larvae, up to 25 mm long, are characteristically flattened, the anterior part of the body being much broader than the rest. The bronzed adults are usually seen only where suitable material occurs in sunny locations.
Jewel beetle classification is not yet robustly established, although there appear to be five or six main lineages, which may be considered subfamilies, possibly with one or two being raised to families in their own right. Some other systems define up to 14 subfamilies.
The commonly accepted subfamilies, with some representative genera, are:
Agrilinae – cosmopolitan, with most taxa occurring in the Northern Hemisphere
- Anodontodora Obenberger, 1931
- Asymades Kerremans, 1893
- Chalcophlocteis Obenberger, 1924
- Discoderoides Théry, 1936
- Entomogaster Saunders, 1871
- Ethiopoeus Bellamy, 2008
- Madecorformica Bellamy, 2008
- Paradorella Obenberger, 1923
- Strandietta Obenberger, 1931
Buprestinae – cosmopolitan
- Calodema – found only in Australia and New Guinea; usually in rain forests
- Castiarina – about 500 species, found only in Australia and New Guinea, previously considered a subgenus of Stigmodera
- Metaxymorpha – found only in Australia, New Guinea, and Indonesia; usually in rain forests
- Stigmodera – 7 species remain here
- Temognatha – About 83-85 species, found only in Australia and New Guinea, previously considered a subgenus of Stigmodera
- Chrysodema Laporte & Gory, 1835 (= Cyalithoides)
- Lampetis Dejean, 1833 – sometimes included in the tribe Psilopterini, but actually not very close to Psiloptera (tentatively placed here)
- Psiloptera (tentatively placed here)
- "The first fossil buprestids from the Middle Jurassic Jiulongshan Formation of China (Coleoptera: Buprestidae)". Zootaxa 2745: 53–62. 2011.
- Rose, A.H.; Lindquist, O.H. 1985. Insects of eastern spruces, fir and, hemlock, revised edition. Gov’t Can., Can. For. Serv., Ottawa, For. Tech. Rep. 23. 159 p. (cited in Coates et al. 1994, cited orig ed 1977)
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