A Colorado Potato Beetle (Leptinotarsa decemlineata)


Coleoptera (the beetles) is the largest order of life on Earth, with 350,000 described species (65,000 of which are weevils). The total number of beetle species - both described and undescribed - is estimated at being between 5 and 8 million. 25% of all described animals and plants are beetles, making them the primary contributor to earth's biodiversity. They are found in nearly all biogeographic regions and non-marine habitats, although they are most diverse in the tropics.

Coleoptera includes many well-known insects, such as ladybirds (family Coccinellidae), scarabs (Scarabaeidae), fireflies (Lampyridae) and weevils (superfamily Curculionoidea). Shell-like elytra conceal and protect the delicate flight wings when they are not in use, which has allowed beetles to utilize resources and engage in activites that otherwise are restricted to both winged and wingless insects. While many beetles are herbivores, some are fungivores or predacious carnivores. Beetles communicate to one another in many ways, either by use of chemicals, sounds, or by visual means (e.g. fireflies).

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Author: Phil Jardine
Last updated: 21st November 2005
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Websites produced by students on the MSc Palaeobiology programme in the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Bristol for academic year 2005-6