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Concept: Bombardier beetle


The carabid beetle species Pterostichus oblongopunctatus is common in different types of forests in Poland and Europe. With respect to this species, some unclarities exist concerning the morphological feature of punctures on the elytra. P. oblongopunctatus has dorsal pits in the third interval of the elytra, the available identification keys, however, provide inconsistent information concerning the puncture in other intervals. During long-term studies at different study sites in Poland, the first author rarely but regularly discovered individuals with unusual dorsal puncture patterns, i.e., pits in the fifth and even in the seventh interval of the elytra. Since such rare patterns might be connected with special habitat characteristics, and thus have a potential as an indicator, the aim of the study was to test if they are connected with specific subpopulations (interaction groups), if they are related to the sex or size of the beetles, and if they are related to specific habitat conditions.

Concepts: Beetle, Adephaga, Ground beetle, Oak, Elytron, Bombardier beetle, Harpalinae, Carabidae


Some prey animals can escape from the digestive systems of predators after being swallowed. To clarify the ecological factors that determine the success of such an escape, we investigated how the bombardier beetle Pheropsophus jessoensis escapes from two toad species, Bufo japonicus and Btorrenticola, under laboratory conditions. Pheropsophus jessoensis ejects a hot chemical spray from the tip of the abdomen when it is attacked. Although all toads swallowed the bombardier beetles, 43% of the toads vomited the beetles 12-107 min after swallowing them. All the vomited beetles were still alive and active. Our experiment showed that Pjessoensis ejected hot chemicals inside the toads, thereby forcing the toads to vomit. Large beetles escaped more frequently than small beetles, and small toads vomited the beetles more frequently than large toads. Our results demonstrate the importance of the prey-predator size relationship in the successful escape of prey from inside a predator.

Concepts: Predation, Ecology, Chemistry, Beetle, Ground beetle, Frog, Escape, Bombardier beetle


Bombardier beetles (Brachinini) use a rapid series of discrete explosions inside their pygidial gland reaction chambers to produce a hot, pulsed, quinone-based defensive spray. The mechanism of brachinines' spray pulsation was explored using anatomical studies and direct observation of explosions inside living beetles using synchrotron x-ray imaging. Quantification of the dynamics of vapor inside the reaction chamber indicates that spray pulsation is controlled by specialized, contiguous cuticular structures located at the junction between the reservoir (reactant) and reaction chambers. Kinematics models suggest passive mediation of spray pulsation by mechanical feedback from the explosion, causing displacement of these structures.

Concepts: Beetle, Metaphysics, Ground beetle, Determinism, Bombardier beetle


Pitfall trapping is a sampling technique frequently used by entomologists around the world. However, there exist sampling biases linked to particular trapping designs, which require investigation. In this study, we compared the effects of the type of preservative fluid (propylene glycol or formaldehyde) and the presence of fish bait in pitfall traps on the number of specimens (individuals) collected, the species richness, and the species composition of carabid (Coleoptera: Carabidae) and silphid (Coleoptera: Silphidae) beetle assemblages. Traps containing propylene glycol collected a substantially higher number of individuals of both taxa and a higher number of silphid species compared with traps containing formaldehyde. The use of fish bait in the traps increased the number of individuals collected and the number of species collected for silphid beetles but had no effect on the collection parameters for carabids. The species composition of the carabid assemblages was minimally affected by the presence of fish bait or the type of preservative fluid, whereas the fish bait had a substantial effect on the species composition of silphids. The silphid species that feed directly on vertebrate carcasses were almost completely absent in the nonbaited traps. The results suggest that pitfall traps baited with fish and containing propylene glycol as a preservative fluid are optimal for the simultaneous sampling of carabid and silphid beetles, which both provide important ecosystem services (e.g., predation of pests and decomposition of vertebrate carcasses) and are therefore interesting for ecological research.

Concepts: Beetle, Propylene glycol, Adephaga, Beetles, Ground beetle, Decomposition, Bombardier beetle, Silphidae


Despite the important roles ground beetles (Coleoptera: Carabidae) play in ecosystems, the highly valued ecosystem services they provide, and ample descriptive documentation of their phenology, the relative impact of various environmental factors on carabid phenology is not well studied. Using the long-term pitfall trap capture data from 12 terrestrial Environmental Change Network (ECN) sites from the UK, we examined how changing climate influenced the phenology of common carabids, and the role particular climate components had on phenological parameters. Of the 28 species included in the analyses, 19 showed earlier start of their activity. This advance was particularly pronounced in the spring, supporting the view that early phenophases have a greater tendency to change and these changes are more directly controlled by temperature than later ones. Autumn activity extended only a few cases, suggesting a photoperiod-driven start of hibernation. No association was found between life-history traits and the ability of species to change their phenology. Air temperatures between April and June were the most important factors determining the start of activity of each species, whilst late season precipitation hastened the cessation of activity. The balance between the advantages and disadvantages of changing phenology on various levels is likely to depend on the species and even on local environmental criteria. The substantially changing phenology of Carabidae may influence their function in ecosystems and the ecosystem services they provide.

Concepts: Biodiversity, Ecosystem, Beetle, Adephaga, Ground beetle, Bombardier beetle, Harpalinae, Carabidae


Few studies of edge effects on wildlife objectively identify habitat edges or explore non-linear responses. In this paper, we build on ground beetle (Coleoptera: Carabidae) research that has begun to address these domains by using triangulation wombling to identify boundaries in beetle community structure and composition at the edges of forest patches with residential developments. We hypothesized that edges are characterized by boundaries in environmental variables that correspond to marked discontinuities in vegetation structure between maintained yards and forest. We expected environmental boundaries to be associated with beetle boundaries.

Concepts: Beetle, Adephaga, Ground beetle, Ecological succession, Bombardier beetle, Residential area


Life-history traits influence colonization, persistence, and extinction of species on islands and are important aspects of theories predicting the geographical distribution and evolution of species. We used data collected from a large freshwater lake (1,413 km2) in central Canada to test the effects of island area and isolation on species richness and abundance of carabid beetles as a function of body size, wing length, and breeding season. A total of 10,018 individual beetles from 37 species were collected during the frost-free period of 2013 using transects of pitfall traps on 30 forested islands ranging in area from 0.2 to 980.7 ha. Life-history traits improved the predictive ability and significantly modified the shape of species-area and abundance-area curves. Abundance and richness of small-bodied (< 13.9 mm), macropterous (winged), and spring-breeding species decreased with island area and increased with isolation. In contrast, richness and abundance of larger-bodied (> 14.0 mm) and flightless species increased with area, but not isolation. Body size of female Carabus taedatus Fabricius, the largest-bodied species, was positively related to island area, while body size on the adjacent mainland was most similar to that on smaller islands. Overall, species with large body size and low dispersal ability, as indicated by flightlessness, were most sensitive to reductions in area. We suggest that large-bodied, flightless species are rare on small islands because habitat is less suitable for them and immigration rates are lower because they depend on freshwater drift for dispersal to islands.

Concepts: Beetle, Adephaga, Ground beetle, Island, Bombardier beetle, Forest Whitaker


Carabids are recognized worldwide as biological control agents of agricultural pests. The objective was to compare the life cycle of Abaris basistriata Chaudoir (Coleoptera: Carabidae) on three substrates: soil, fine vermiculite, or paper napkins. The biological cycle of A. basistriata presented different durations in soil and paper. The viability of eggs and larvae survival of the first and second instars were similar on all three substrates, while the third instar and pupa in the soil presented higher survival when compared with vermiculite and paper. The soil substrate was more favorable for the longevity of the carabid beetle. Abaris basistriata showed a shorter pre-oviposition period and a higher oviposition and post-oviposition period in the soil. Fecundity and fertility were higher when A. basistriata was reared on soil. The soil was most favorable substrate for rearing of A. basistriata in the laboratory. This information may make this species useful for the biological control.

Concepts: Insect, Beetle, Biological pest control, Adephaga, Ground beetle, Bombardier beetle, Harpalinae, Carabidae


Metals assimilated by organisms are sequestered in various compartments and some forms are more stable than others. Sequestration mechanisms used by invertebrates to detoxify metals and prevent interaction with important biomolecules include metal binding to proteins and other ligands, and storage in inorganic granules. The rate and extent at which metal concentrations in different compartments respond to metal concentrations in food and food characteristics has not received much attention, despite being of great relevance. We performed an experiment on the carabid beetle Pterostichus oblongopunctatus exposed to Cd via food made of ground mealworm (Tenebrio molitor) larvae, either reared on Cd contaminated medium or artificially spiked after grinding with CdCl2 solution. Thus, in both cases we used the same type of food, differing only in the soluble Cd pool available to the predators, represented by P. oblongopunctatus. Subcellular compartmentalisation of Cd into organelles, heat-sensitive and heat-stable proteins (the first supernatant, S1 fraction), cellular debris (the second supernatant, S2 fraction) and metal-rich granules (G fraction) was checked a few times during the contamination (90 d) and decontamination (24 d) phases in a toxicokinetic experiment by using different centrifugation steps. The results showed no effect of the type of food (naturally, Cd-N, vs. artificially contaminated with Cd, Cd-A) on Cd sequestration kinetics in P. oblongopunctatus, but the amount of Cd sequestered in the S1 and G fractions were in general higher in the Cd-A than the Cd-N treatment, indicating that Cd transfer in the food web depends on the speciation of the metal in the food. The proportional distribution of Cd over different fractions was, however, similar in beetles fed both food types. Most of the accumulated Cd in the beetles existed as fraction S1 (ca. 35%), which is important for the transfer of metals to higher trophic levels in a food web.

Concepts: Metal, Cadmium, Beetle, Trophic level, Food chain, Apex predator, Ground beetle, Bombardier beetle


Effects of passive restoration of mountain rivers on the organisms inhabiting exposed riverine sediments are considerably less understood than those concerning aquatic biota. Thus, the effects of a recovery of the Raba River after abandonment of maintenance of its channelization scheme on ground beetle (Coleoptera: Carabidae) communities were investigated by comparing 6 unmanaged cross-sections and 6 cross-sections from adjacent channelized reaches. In each cross-section, ground beetles were collected from 12 sampling sites in spring, summer, and autumn, and 8 habitat parameters characterizing the cross-sections and sampling sites were determined. Within a few years after abandonment of the Raba River channelization scheme, the width of this gravel-bed river increased up to three times and its multi-thread pattern became re-established. Consequently, unmanaged river cross-sections had significantly larger channel width and more low-flow channels and eroding cutbanks than channelized cross-sections. Moreover, sampling sites in the unmanaged cross-sections were typified by significantly steeper average surface slope and larger average distance from low-flow channels than the sites in channelized cross-sections. In total, 3992 individuals from 78 taxa were collected during the study. The ground beetle assemblages were significantly more abundant and richer in species in the unmanaged than in the channelized cross-sections but no significant differences in carabid diversity indices between the two cross-section types were recorded. Redundancy Analysis indicated active river zone width as the only variable explaining differences in abundance and species richness among the cross-sections. Multiple regression analysis indicated species diversity to predominantly depend on the degree of plant cover and substrate grain size. The study showed that increased availability of exposed sediments in the widened river reaches allowed ground beetles to increase their abundance and species richness within a few years after the onset of river restoration, but more time may be needed for development of more diverse carabid communities.

Concepts: Regression analysis, River, Beetle, Adephaga, Ground beetle, Bombardier beetle, Harpalinae, Carabidae