Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

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


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


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


The parents' phenotype, or the environment they create for their young, can have long-lasting effects on their offspring, with profound evolutionary consequences. Yet virtually no work has considered how such parental effects might change the adaptive value of behavioural traits expressed by offspring upon reaching adulthood. To address this problem, we combined experiments on burying beetles (Nicrophorus vespilloides) with theoretical modelling, and focussed on one adult behavioural trait in particular: the supply of parental care. We manipulated the early life environment and measured the fitness payoffs associated with the supply of parental care when larvae reached maturity. We found that (1) adults that received low levels of care as larvae were less successful at raising larger broods, and suffered greater mortality as a result: they were low quality parents. Furthermore (2) high quality males that raised offspring with low quality females subsequently suffered greater mortality than brothers of equivalent quality, which reared larvae with higher quality females. Our analyses identify three general ways in which parental effects can change the adaptive value of an adult behavioural trait: by influencing the associated fitness benefits and costs; by consequently changing the evolutionary outcome of social interactions; and by modifying the evolutionarily stable expression of behavioural traits that are themselves parental effects.

Concepts: Gene, Natural selection, Evolution, Biology, Parent, Beetle, Adult, Burying beetle


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


The evolutionary success of beetles and numerous other terrestrial insects is generally attributed to co-radiation with flowering plants but most studies have focused on herbivorous or pollinating insects. Non-herbivores represent a significant proportion of beetle diversity yet potential factors that influence their diversification have been largely unexamined. In the present study, we examine the factors driving diversification within the Scarabaeidae, a speciose beetle family with a range of both herbivorous and non-herbivorous ecologies. In particular, it has been long debated whether the key event in the evolution of dung beetles (Scarabaeidae: Scarabaeinae) was an adaptation to feeding on dinosaur or mammalian dung. Here we present molecular evidence to show that the origin of dung beetles occurred in the middle of the Cretaceous, likely in association with dinosaur dung, but more surprisingly the timing is consistent with the rise of the angiosperms. We hypothesize that the switch in dinosaur diet to incorporate more nutritious and less fibrous angiosperm foliage provided a palatable dung source that ultimately created a new niche for diversification. Given the well-accepted mass extinction of non-avian dinosaurs at the Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary, we examine a potential co-extinction of dung beetles due to the loss of an important evolutionary resource, i.e., dinosaur dung. The biogeography of dung beetles is also examined to explore the previously proposed “out of Africa” hypothesis. Given the inferred age of Scarabaeinae as originating in the Lower Cretaceous, the major radiation of dung feeders prior to the Cenomanian, and the early divergence of both African and Gondwanan lineages, we hypothesise that that faunal exchange between Africa and Gondwanaland occurred during the earliest evolution of the Scarabaeinae. Therefore we propose that both Gondwanan vicariance and dispersal of African lineages is responsible for present day distribution of scarabaeine dung beetles and provide examples.

Concepts: Insect, Beetle, Extinction, Cretaceous, Dinosaur, Dung beetle, Scarabaeidae, Cretaceous–Tertiary extinction event


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