Landcare Research - Manaaki Whenua

Landcare-Research -Manaaki Whenua

FNZ 26 - Tenebrionidae (Insecta: Coleoptera) - Introduction

Watt, JC 1992. Tenebrionidae (Insecta: Coleoptera): catalogue of types and keys to taxa. Fauna of New Zealand 26, 70 pages.
( ISSN 0111-5383 (print), ; no. 26. ISBN 0-477-02639-7 (print), ). Published 13 Jul 1992


The family Tenebrionidae (darkling beetles), excluding the Zopheridae, Chalcodryidae, and Archaeocrypticidae, is one of the largest in the animal kingdom, comprising approximately 15 000 described species worldwide, thus considerably exceeding the known species of birds. Great superficial diversity is apparent in adult tenebrionids, and some are often wrongly identified in preliminary sorting as they closely resemble members of other families such as Carabidae and Chrysomelidae.

All tenebrionids can be recognised by the following characteristics in combination: base of antenna covered by a canthus; prosternal intercoxal process straight, without lateral expansions of apex behind front coxae; tarsal formula 5-5-4 (very rarely 4-4-4, and if so then middle coxal cavities closed laterally by mesosterna); basal abdominal sternites 1 - 3 fused together, and the sutures between them faint, but sternites 4 and 5 more or less movable; tarsal claws simple or pectinate, never appendiculate. For further details, see Watt (1974).

Hudson (1934), in his index of New Zealand beetles, listed 173 species in the family Tenebrionidae (including Cistelidae). As a result of the revision reported here, the number of valid species is 149, including 10 introduced species. Watt (1982) recorded the number of species of New Zealand Coleoptera in the New Zealand Arthropod Collection as 4520 native and 302 introduced. Thus, the number of tenebrionid species represents some 3.3% of the total known Coleoptera species.

Relatively few Tenebrionidae are of any great economic importance - notably the stored products pests, and the false wireworms of arid and semi-arid areas. Perhaps because of this the family has attracted less attention than the other very large families of Coleoptera such as weevils.

Subfamily and tribal classification

The higher classification of Tenebrionidae has changed substantially in recent years, following studies of larvae and the anatomy of the sclerotised parts of the male and female reproductive organs (Watt 1974, Doyen & Tschinkel 1982, Matthews 1987). The classification proposed here, suggested to me by Dr J.F. Lawrence (ANIC), is based in part on the work of Doyen (1985) and Doyen et al. (1990). It is almost certain that advancing knowledge will require further changes in subfamily and tribal classification. However, this is unlikely to affect one of the primary practical purposes of this contribution, i.e., identification.

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