Darkling Beetles

Tenebrionidae. Spanish: Cucarachas martina (Peru), pinacates (Mexico).

This is an extremely varied group, but most are dark-colored, dull black or brown beetles, characterized by four-segmented hind tarsi, the other tarsi being five segmented. The antennae are usually threadlike or slightly to strongly clubbed, and they have notched eyes. The edge of the prothorax is often ridged or sharp, and the elytra are smooth to ridged, with lines of pits or crudely roughened. They are common in all habitats, in rotton wood, under logs, in fungi, or on the ground, from moist wooded areas to deserts. Both adults and larvae are omnivores and scavengers, feeding on decaying vegetation, fungi, and other organic matter of all kinds.

There are about 3,000 species in the Neotropical Region. Some are unusual, such as the attic beetles (Zophobas; fig. 9.2a), whose larvae feed in the bat guano in caves and attics of houses. In this species, cannibalism is a way of life for their larvae, which must retreat far from the colony for safety during pupation (Tschinkel 1981). Among the larger Neotropical beetle groups, this family tends most to have many members adapted to dry, even desert habitats. In these, a large, subelytral cavity is thought to provide a pocket of air, insulating them against the heat of the sun. Many are flightless, long lived, and nocturnal, hiding in the soil during the day.

This family is so well developed in Chile that it has served as the basis for classifying the country's entomological faunal regions, according to one author (Pena 1966).

References

Pena, L. E. 1966. A preliminary attempt to divide Chile into entomofaunal regions based on the Tenebrionidae (Coleoptera). Postilla 97: 1-17.

Tschinkel, W. R. 1981. Larval dispersal and cannibalism in a natural population of

Figure 9.2 DARKLING (TENEBRIONIDAE) AND FUNGUS (EROTYLIDAE) BEETLES, (a) Attic beetle (Zophobas sp.). (b) Horned darkling beetle (Tauroceras sp.). (c) Giant darkling beetle (Mylaris sp.). (d) Darkling beetle (Strongylium sp.). (e) Ma'kech (Zopherus chilensis). (f) Desert darkling beetle (Gyriosomus sp.). (g) Desert darkling beetle (Nyctelia sp.). (h) Desert darkling beetle (Proacis bicarinatus). (i) Desert darkling beetle (Scotobius gayi). (j) Fungus beetle mimicking darkling (Cuphotes sp.). (k) Fungus beetle model for darkling mimic (Cypherotylus dromedarius, Erotylidae). (I) Fungus beetle (Erotylus sp., Erotylidae).

Figure 9.2 DARKLING (TENEBRIONIDAE) AND FUNGUS (EROTYLIDAE) BEETLES, (a) Attic beetle (Zophobas sp.). (b) Horned darkling beetle (Tauroceras sp.). (c) Giant darkling beetle (Mylaris sp.). (d) Darkling beetle (Strongylium sp.). (e) Ma'kech (Zopherus chilensis). (f) Desert darkling beetle (Gyriosomus sp.). (g) Desert darkling beetle (Nyctelia sp.). (h) Desert darkling beetle (Proacis bicarinatus). (i) Desert darkling beetle (Scotobius gayi). (j) Fungus beetle mimicking darkling (Cuphotes sp.). (k) Fungus beetle model for darkling mimic (Cypherotylus dromedarius, Erotylidae). (I) Fungus beetle (Erotylus sp., Erotylidae).

Zophobas atratus (Coleoptera: Tenebrionidae). j. Anim. Behav. 29: 990-996.

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