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Concept: Beetle


Ladybird beetles are high-mobility insects and explore broad areas by switching between walking and flying. Their excellent wing transformation systems enabling this lifestyle are expected to provide large potential for engineering applications. However, the mechanism behind the folding of their hindwings remains unclear. The reason is that ladybird beetles close the elytra ahead of wing folding, preventing the observation of detailed processes occurring under the elytra. In the present study, artificial transparent elytra were transplanted on living ladybird beetles, thereby enabling us to observe the detailed wing-folding processes. The result revealed that in addition to the abdominal movements mentioned in previous studies, the edge and ventral surface of the elytra, as well as characteristic shaped veins, play important roles in wing folding. The structures of the wing frames enabling this folding process and detailed 3D shape of the hindwing were investigated using microcomputed tomography. The results showed that the tape spring-like elastic frame plays an important role in the wing transformation mechanism. Compared with other beetles, hindwings in ladybird beetles are characterized by two seemingly incompatible properties: (i) the wing rigidity with relatively thick veins and (ii) the compactness in stored shapes with complex crease patterns. The detailed wing-folding process revealed in this study is expected to facilitate understanding of the naturally optimized system in this excellent deployable structure.

Concepts: Scientific method, Insect, Structure, Observation, Beetle, Shape, Insect wing, Elytron


Dinosaurs undoubtedly produced huge quantities of excrements. But who cleaned up after them? Dung beetles and flies with rapid development were rare during most of the Mesozoic. Candidates for these duties are extinct cockroaches (Blattulidae), whose temporal range is associated with herbivorous dinosaurs. An opportunity to test this hypothesis arises from coprolites to some extent extruded from an immature cockroach preserved in the amber of Lebanon, studied using synchrotron X-ray microtomography. 1.06% of their volume is filled by particles of wood with smooth edges, in which size distribution directly supports their external pre-digestion. Because fungal pre-processing can be excluded based on the presence of large particles (combined with small total amount of wood) and absence of damages on wood, the likely source of wood are herbivore feces. Smaller particles were broken down biochemically in the cockroach hind gut, which indicates that the recent lignin-decomposing termite and cockroach endosymbionts might have been transferred to the cockroach gut upon feeding on dinosaur feces.

Concepts: Insect, Plant, Beetle, Feces, Cretaceous, Cockroach, Dinosaur, Dung beetle


The harlequin ladybird beetle Harmonia axyridis has emerged as a model species in invasion biology because of its strong resistance against pathogens and remarkable capacity to outcompete native ladybirds. The invasive success of the species may reflect its well-adapted immune system, a hypothesis we tested by analysing the transcriptome and characterizing the immune gene repertoire of untreated beetles and those challenged with bacteria and fungi. We found that most H. axyridis immunity-related genes were similar in diversity to their counterparts in the reference beetle Tribolium castaneum, but there was an unprecedented expansion among genes encoding antimicrobial peptides and proteins (AMPs). We identified more than 50 putative AMPs belonging to seven different gene families, and many of the corresponding genes were shown by quantitative real-time RT-PCR to be induced in the immune-stimulated beetles. AMPs with the highest induction ratio in the challenged beetles were shown to demonstrate broad and potent activity against Gram-negative bacteria and entomopathogenic fungi. The invasive success of H. axyridis can therefore be attributed at least in part to the greater efficiency of its immune system, particularly the expansion of AMP gene families and their induction in response to pathogens.

Concepts: Immune system, Gene, Bacteria, Evolution, Biology, Beetle, Coccinellidae, Harmonia axyridis


A rape seed pollen-based diet was developed and found to be suitable for use in a dietary exposure assay for Propylea japonica. Using the diet, we established and validated a dietary exposure assay by using the protease inhibitor E-64 as positive control. Dose-dependent responses were documented for all observed life-table parameters of P. japonica including survival, pupation and eclosion rates, development time and adult weight. Results suggested that the dietary assay can detect the effects of insecticidal compounds on the survival and development of P. japonica. Using the established dietary assay, we subsequently tested the toxicity of Cry1Ab, Cry1Ac and Cry1F proteins that are expressed by transgenic maize, cotton or rice plants to P. japonica larvae. The diet containing E-64 was included as a positive control. Survival and development of P. japonica larvae were not adversely affected when the diet contained purified Cry1Ab, Cry1Ac, or Cry1F at 500 µg/g diet representing a worst-case exposure scenario. In contrast, P. japonica larvae were adversely affected when the diet contained E-64. The bioactivity and stability of the Cry proteins in the diet and Cry protein uptake by the ladybird larvae were confirmed by bioassay with a Cry-sensitive insect species and by ELISA. The current study describes a suitable experimental system for assessing the potential effects of gut-active insecticidal compounds on ladybird beetle larvae. The experiments with the Cry proteins demonstrate that P. japonica larvae are not sensitive to Cry1Ab, Cry1Ac and Cry1F.

Concepts: Protein, Nutrition, Insect, Developmental biology, Diet, Beetle, Coccinellidae, Propylea quatuordecimpunctata


Coleoptera (beetles) is a massively successful order of insects, distinguished by their evolutionarily modified forewings called elytra. These structures are often presumed to have been a major driving force for the successful radiation of this taxon, by providing beetles with protection against a variety of harsh environmental factors. However, few studies have directly demonstrated the functional significance of the elytra against diverse environmental challenges. Here, we sought to empirically test the function of the elytra using Tribolium castaneum (the red flour beetle) as a model. We tested four categories of stress on the beetles: physical damage to hindwings, predation, desiccation, and cold shock. We found that, in all categories, the presence of elytra conferred a significant advantage compared to those beetles with their elytra experimentally removed. This work provides compelling quantitative evidence supporting the importance of beetle forewings in tolerating a variety of environmental stresses, and gives insight into how the evolution of elytra have facilitated the remarkable success of beetle radiation.

Concepts: Insect, Fungus, Beetle, Ground beetle, Insects, Tenebrionidae, Elytron, Endopterygota


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


When the moon is absent from the night sky, stars remain as celestial visual cues. Nonetheless, only birds [1, 2], seals [3], and humans [4] are known to use stars for orientation. African ball-rolling dung beetles exploit the sun, the moon, and the celestial polarization pattern to move along straight paths, away from the intense competition at the dung pile [5-9]. Even on clear moonless nights, many beetles still manage to orientate along straight paths [5]. This led us to hypothesize that dung beetles exploit the starry sky for orientation, a feat that has, to our knowledge, never been demonstrated in an insect. Here, we show that dung beetles transport their dung balls along straight paths under a starlit sky but lose this ability under overcast conditions. In a planetarium, the beetles orientate equally well when rolling under a full starlit sky as when only the Milky Way is present. The use of this bidirectional celestial cue for orientation has been proposed for vertebrates [10], spiders [11], and insects [5, 12], but never proven. This finding represents the first convincing demonstration for the use of the starry sky for orientation in insects and provides the first documented use of the Milky Way for orientation in the animal kingdom.

Concepts: Insect, Sun, Moon, Beetle, Milky Way, Dung beetle, Astronomical unit, Astronomy in medieval Islam


It has been suggested that we do not know within an order of magnitude the number of all species on Earth [May RM (1988) Science 241(4872):1441-1449]. Roughly 1.5 million valid species of all organisms have been named and described [Costello MJ, Wilson S, Houlding B (2012) Syst Biol 61(5):871-883]. Given Kingdom Animalia numerically dominates this list and virtually all terrestrial vertebrates have been described, the question of how many terrestrial species exist is all but reduced to one of how many arthropod species there are. With beetles alone accounting for about 40% of all described arthropod species, the truly pertinent question is how many beetle species exist. Here we present four new and independent estimates of beetle species richness, which produce a mean estimate of 1.5 million beetle species. We argue that the surprisingly narrow range (0.9-2.1 million) of these four autonomous estimates-derived from host-specificity relationships, ratios with other taxa, plant:beetle ratios, and a completely novel body-size approach-represents a major advance in honing in on the richness of this most significant taxon, and is thus of considerable importance to the debate on how many species exist. Using analogous approaches, we also produce independent estimates for all insects, mean: 5.5 million species (range 2.6-7.8 million), and for terrestrial arthropods, mean: 6.8 million species (range 5.9-7.8 million), which suggest that estimates for the world’s insects and their relatives are narrowing considerably.

Concepts: Organism, Insect, Fungus, Arthropod, Animal, Crustacean, Beetle, Spider


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


Agaricomycetes, or mushrooms, are familiar, conspicuous and morphologically diverse Fungi. Most Agaricomycete fruiting bodies are ephemeral, and their fossil record is limited. Here we report diverse gilled mushrooms (Agaricales) and mycophagous rove beetles (Staphylinidae) from mid-Cretaceous Burmese amber, the latter belonging to Oxyporinae, modern members of which exhibit an obligate association with soft-textured mushrooms. The discovery of four mushroom forms, most with a complete intact cap containing distinct gills and a stalk, suggests evolutionary stasis of body form for ∼99 Myr and highlights the palaeodiversity of Agaricomycetes. The mouthparts of early oxyporines, including enlarged mandibles and greatly enlarged apical labial palpomeres with dense specialized sensory organs, match those of modern taxa and suggest that they had a mushroom feeding biology. Diverse and morphologically specialized oxyporines from the Early Cretaceous suggests the existence of diverse Agaricomycetes and a specialized trophic interaction and ecological community structure by this early date.

Concepts: Evolution, Insect, Fungus, Beetle, Mushroom, Agaricales, Agaricomycetes, Rove beetle