Sunday, November 25, 2012

Super Scarabs

A very interesting post recently came out by Matthew Cobb on the blog "Why Evolution Is True" about a newly discovered Aphodiine Scarab from Cambodia.

Scarab belonging to the Corythoderini tribe allows itself to
be carried by a termite. Cambodia, Southeast Asia.

This is a stunning example of how natural selection helps this termitophilic beetle get it's nutrients. By not only tricking a colony of termites by granting it access to their stock pile of food, it lets the termite actually carry it directly to the food with it's perfectly sculpted handle on it's back for a termite to grip. This is all made possible by the beetle developing the scent of foods that a termite's brood might eat themselves.

A clearer picture of this beetle's morphology.

Looks like beetles win again! Now that I've seen these I feel like going to Asia to collect them! Sadly, money is too much a factor with a hobby such as entomology. Maybe I'll get lucky and get to tag along on an exciting biological field trip sometime that's already being funded. Maybe.

In the meantime, we have a good enough biota in North America. Another great example of a "Super Scarab" would be Cremastocheilus, Anteater Scarabs. These, I have been lucky enough to collect.

Anteater Scarab Beetle - Cremastocheilus

These scarabs have found a way to carry a fume unique to an ant colony's, and use it to sneak into that specific ant colony. Once in, they lay eggs (which are possibly even nurtured after by some ants), and once they hatch, the larvae likely prey on the ant larvae, or feed on vegetation collected by some ants (the adults may even do this too, but this is all hard to predict considering it takes place beyond our scope of vision!) Because these particular insects associate with ants, a common term for these would be "myrmecophiles."

I strongly recommend a visit to the original website linked by the two uppermost pictures, "How the Beetle Got His Handles." It's a good, entertaining tale!

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