Beetling away for Biodiversity Month

Jewel beetle, Cooktown. Image by John Hill, licensed under GNU FDL

Jewel beetle, Cooktown. Image by John Hill, licensed under GNU FDL

Since September is Biodiversity Month, we’ll be offering a lot of biodiversity-themed posts, and the first has to be beetles.

Why is that, I hear you ask? Well, it’s because insects have more species than any other class, and there are more species of beetles than in any other order within that class. Roughly 900,000 species of insects are known, and it’s estimated that the total number of living species is somewhere

Hibiscus harlequin beetle. Image by John Hill, licensed under GNU FDL

Hibiscus harlequin beetle. Image by John Hill, licensed under GNU FDL

between 2 million and 30 million, meaning that insects comprise about 80% of the world’s species. Beetles, for their part, with roughly 400,000 known species, form about 30% of all known animal life forms, and 40% of insect species.

That means that beetles have been enormously successful, evolutionarily speaking. Beetles have survived and diversified into an enormous variety of niches, wherever plant material (of any kind, including dead or dying) is found.

And as you can see, the diversity of beetles includes an incredible variety of beauty, including the Queensland jewel beetle (temognatha alternata), the hibiscus harlequin beetle (tectocoris diophthalmus), the rainbow stag beetle (phallacrognathus muelleri), and the rhinoceros beetle (xylotrupes ulysses) – all of which are found in Australia.

Rhinoceros beetle (xylotrupes ulysses). Image by Quartl, licensed under Creative Commons 3.0

Rhinoceros beetle (xylotrupes ulysses). Image by Quartl, licensed under Creative Commons 3.0

World beetle diversity contains two contestants for largest beetle species: the Titan beetle (titanus giganteus) and the Hercules beetle (dynastes hercules). While the Titan beetle can grow up to 6.5 in/16.7 cm, Hercules beetles can grow to up to 7 in/17.5 cm. The contest comes about due to a question of whether or not the horns are included in measurement of size:

Hercules beetle. Image by Didier Descouens, licensed under Creative Commons 3.0

Hercules beetle. Image by Didier Descouens, licensed under Creative Commons 3.0

when the horns are excluded, the Titan beetle is the definite winner. It’s also considerably more worth watching for: although it looks nowhere near as dramatic, it does possess sharp, curved mandibles that can snap a pencil in half and cut through human flesh.

So this Biodiversity Month, spare a thought for all the multiplicity of beetles busily beetling away out of sight, because they’re a vital part of every ecosystem.

And what’s a discussion of beetles without these classics: Get Back and I Am The Walrus. Enjoy!

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5 Responses to Beetling away for Biodiversity Month

  1. Pingback: Biodiversity favourites | Biodiversity Revolution

  2. Tony says:

    They are some amazingly coloured species right there. We need to like these minibeasts now, more than ever before.

    • Alison Jobling says:

      They are pretty amazing, Tony – not just that there are so many different species in so many different niches, but that they’re so stunning to look at.

      And yes, we do need to like them, or at least appreciate them properly.

      Sorry for the delay in responding – I’ve been away from work for a week.

  3. Pingback: Baby, you’re an arthropod! | Biodiversity Revolution

  4. Pingback: Sisters unite – my first ever award nomination « Pip Marks

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