Titanic Longhorn

Cerambycidae, Prioninae, Prionini,

Titanus giganteus.

This gargantuan species, which lives in the northern Amazonian rain forest, is the largest longhorn and one of the world's largest beetles (fig. 9.12d). The biggest specimens may measure fully 20 centimeters in body length, with 10-centimeter-

long antennae and powerful, massive jaws that can snap wooden pencils in half. They are solid dark brown to black and with the elytra lightly ridged longitudinally.

These great insects were considered exceedingly rare until recent years, when their habitat and area of occurrence became known. Now specimens are collected regularly by natives to sell to dealers who supply souvenir hunters and amateur entomologists. In 1914, a male fetched 2,000 gold marks, the equivalent then of US$476 (Reitter 1961), and today prime specimens command no less a price.

An exciting hunt for these beetle behemoths in Amazonian Brazil is related by Zahl (1959). A presumed mature larva (fig. 9.12e) was found and photographed. It is like an enormous sausage, more than 20 centimeters long and 3 centimeters in diameter. 11 was found feeding in a decomposing log and presumably required several years to mature because of the fantastic size it had reached (Zahl pers. comm.). Its host trees and other details of life history remain totally unknown.

Linnaeus named and described the species in 1771, not from specimens but from a figure by D'Aubenton in a set of illustrations for a bird encyclopedia published in 1765 (Reitter 1961:32).

References

Reitter, E. 1961. Beetles. Putnam's Sons, New

York.

Zahl, P. 1959. Giant insects of the Amazon.

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