Landcare Research - Manaaki Whenua

Landcare-Research -Manaaki Whenua

FNZ 60 - Carabidae (Insecta: Coleoptera) - Popular summary

Larochelle, A; Larivière, M-C 2007. Carabidae (Insecta: Coleoptera): synopsis of supraspecific taxa. Fauna of New Zealand 60, 188 pages.
( ISSN 0111-5383 (print), ; no. 60. ISBN 978-0-478-09394-0 (print), ). Published 21 Nov 2007

Popular summary


The family Carabidae (ground-beetles, including tiger-beetles) is composed of over 34,000 species distributed among 1,927 genera worldwide. Carabids occupy most land habitats on nearly all continents. These beetles are abundant in the field and attract attention with their peculiar shape and coloration. They are mostly active at night and prey on a wide range of small animals such as other insects and spiders; some species are active during the day and feed on plant tissue. Most ground-beetles, in temperate climates at least, live at the surface of the ground, while some species dwell in the soil (e.g., Anillina), in caves (e.g., Trechini, Harpalini), or on the vegetation (e.g., Zolini, Lebiini). Most New Zealand species cannot fly, which reduces their dispersal capacity and affects the flow of genes defining their body shape, making it rather variable. In 2001, Larochelle & Larivière’s Catalogue (Fauna of New Zealand 43) recorded 5 subfamilies, 20 tribes, 78 genera, and 424 species for this country, whereas this new work recognises 7 subfamilies, 21 tribes, 86 genera, and 461 species. When completely inventoried and described the fauna will likely reach 800 species. Compared with larger or warmer regions of the world, the New Zealand fauna may appear relatively small, but New Zealand is a very special place – a biodiversity ‘hot-spot’ – with fifty genera (58 % of fauna) found nowhere else in the world. The remaining genera not endemic to this country are made up of overseas genera introduced mainly from Australia and native genera shared with Australia and other parts of the world.

In New Zealand, ground-beetles are generally recognised by the following body features: length, 1.0–39.0 mm; colour dark (usually black or brown); elytra (wing covers) rarely spotted; dorsal surface without hair cover; head narrower than pronotum (dorsal part between head and wings); mandibles well developed, with sharp tips; eyes moderate in size; antennae thread-like or beaded like a necklace, composed of 11 segments; pronotum narrower than elytra, with a pronounced mobility; legs long and slender, fit for running; tarsi (last part of legs) composed of 5 segments; elytra fused, with striae (deepened lines) present; membranous wings very short, almost absent. Most carabids are recognisable alive by a peculiar way of running on the ground.

As a family, Carabidae are sensitive to their environment and are commonly used as biological indicators to evaluate the diversity of life in ecological systems, indicate the influence of landscape changes, evaluate environmental health, predict the effect of climate changes, select habitats for nature conservation, and characterise forest soil. They can also be used to control pest insects (e.g., caterpillars). In the future, ground-beetles may become more commonly used in biological control, e.g., as natural control agents against harmful insects, especially soil pests, or as control agents of weeds, especially their seeds. In New Zealand, conservation biologists have listed many, often large-sized carabids, as rare or threatened and worthy of protection.

This Fauna of New Zealand contribution is aimed at specialists and non-specialists; it should greatly facilitate identification and information gathering. Its purpose is to provide for the first time a review of all New Zealand carabids above the species level, including: comparative descriptions for subfamilies, tribes, subtribes, genera, and subgenera; identification keys for subfamilies, tribes, and genera; habitus (whole body) drawings, geographic range, habitat, and collecting techniques for all genera; the most relevant publications for all included carabids; an updated list of species and a summary of all changes since the 2001 carabid catalogue. Three genera and one species are described as new for science; many new names are introduced to comply with current scientific knowledge.

This work is one more step in the authors’ goal of reaching an overall understanding of the New Zealand carabid fauna within a reasonable time frame and making relatively large amounts of information available for practical use by a wide range of end-users.

In addition, the authors edit the New Zealand Carabidae website ( which maintains up-to-date information on New Zealand carabids and includes digital images, identification keys, checklists, recent scientific papers, additions and corrections to previous publications.

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