Newsletter of the Biological Survey of Canada (Terrestrial Arthropods)

Volume 27 No. 2, Fall 2008


Little beetles and big headaches, or how to understand one of the most successful groups of terrestrial beetles in Canada (Staphylinidae: Aleocharinae)

Jan Klimaszewski
Natural Resources Canada, Canadian Forest Service, Laurentian Forestry Centre,
1055 du P.E.P.S., P.O. Box 10380, Stn. Sainte-Foy, Québec, Québec, Canada G1V 4C7

General information and editorial notes

News and Notes

BSC 2008 Curation Blitz at the Canadian Museum of Nature

Biological Survey of Canada symposium at the ESC annual meeting

Summary of the Scientific
Committee meeting  

Project Update: The BSC's BioBlitz program

Little beetles and big headaches

Arthropod inventory work in Labrador

Arctic Corner

Northern Insect Survey

Selected future conferences

When in 1973 I visited my family in Canada and started working on the aleocharine beetles under the leadership of Ales Smetana and John Milton Campbell (Biosystematics Research Institute, Ottawa), the field was wide open, and it was truly the “El Dorado” of the Canadian Coleoptera. Since that time, I have been able to work on this group – but really significant progress on the Canadian fauna was made when I joined the Laurentian Forestry Centre in Quebec City in 1998. One of my main responsibilities was to work on the poorly known litter inhabiting beetles in the boreal forest of Canada. The aleocharines, the biggest group of poorly known rove beetles, were the best candidates for this type of research.

Rove beetles (Figs. 1–6), along with weevils, leaf beetles, and the ground beetles, are one of the largest and biologically most diverse beetle families (Klimaszewski 2000, Gouix and Klimaszewski 2007). The world fauna includes over 46 200 known rove beetle species, classified in some 3 200 genera (Newton et al. 2001). In Canada and Alaska, there are 1 374 recorded rove beetle species in 274 genera and 23 subfamilies (Klimaszewski 2000). Many groups of rove beetles, and particularly the aleocharines, were the subjects of intensive studies in recent years (Table 3), and the number of described and documented rove beetle species in Canada and Alaska now exceeds 1 400, including over 400 species of aleocharines. Rove beetles are very successful in competing with other arthropods due to several of their biological and morphological features. They have a small, narrow, and flexible body (flexible because of the shortened elytra); elongate, flexible abdomen; well-developed wings in most species with very good dispersal abilities; and most of the aleocharine species have defensive glands with chemicals to deter predators (Klimaszewski 2000). The majority of adults are nocturnal and generally avoid contact with light, and prefer moist habitats. Most rove beetles, including the great majority of aleocharines, are general predators of other arthropods, but some groups/species have specialized in using other food resources. Oxyporinae species are obligate inhabitants of fresh mushrooms, and Gyrophaenina species are exclusively mycetophagous, feeding on fungal spores and hyphae (Seevers 1978; Ashe 1984, 2001). All Scaphidinae are also obligate or facultative inhabitants and consumers of fungi (Newton 1984). Osoriinae and Oxytelinae feed mainly on decomposing organic material (Klimaszewski 2000). A number of species are saprophagous (some Oxytelinae) or phytophagous (some Omaliinae, Osoriinae, Oxytelinae, Paederinae) (Klimaszewski 2000, Frank and Thomas 1991). Larvae of Aleochara species are ectoparasitoids on pupae of cyclorrhaphous Diptera (Klimaszewski 1984). Some species occur and pry under the bark of trees or logs (e.g. Homalota, Dexiogyia, Gnathusa). Many other species are affiliated with ants (some members of Athetini and Oxypodini). The primary feeding mode (trophic affiliations) of adults and larvae of rove beetles are presented and discussed by Klimaszewski (2000).

Rove beetles occur in most terrestrial habitats but are best represented in forest litter (Klimaszewski 2000). Aleocharines represent one of the largest and taxonomically the most diverse lineages of the rove beetles. There are at least 52 tribes, 1 000 genera and over 12 000 described species worldwide (Seevers 1978, Ashe 2001, Klimaszewski 2000). The true diversity of this group is probably much higher with thousands of species still to be discovered throughout the world, and particularly in the tropics. Gouix and Klimaszewski (2007), in the first comprehensive catalogue of aleocharine rove beetles from Canada and Alaska, reported 389 valid species (including 362 synonyms), classified in 92 genera and 14 tribes (Table 1), but many more species remain unrecorded or undescribed. In 2008, the list of described aleocharine species in Canada exceeded 400 – but the true number of aleocharines in Canada may even exceed 500. The number of recorded species for each tribe and the total number of species and genera per province, territory, and state of Alaska are listed in Table 2 (Gouix and Klimaszewski 2007).

The major factor responsible for the progress in the taxonomy and classification of the aleocharines is the use of the genital character states in species recognition. There are clusters of closely related species, which are externally very similar to each other, and their separation by external morphology alone is difficult and often impossible. Fortunately for us, one of the mechanisms preventing hybridization between the species is differently shaped male genital organs and associated internal sclerites of the internal sac (the median lobe of the aedeagus and the internal sac structures), and differently shaped female spermathecae. By studying these structures we can precisely identify species in this group including sibling and synonymic species that were previously undetected. Using these methods, we were able to revise the majority of the aleocharine species in Canada (Table 3) and provide a reliable list of synonyms (Table 1), but the task is not yet fully complete. The second factor responsible for the progress was the group efforts of my Canadian colleagues who contributed to these studies by providing specimens with ecological and associated data and assisted in the production of scientific papers. The list of collaborators is long but I will mention only those without whom this progress would have not been possible: Chris Majka, Nova Scotia Museum (inventory of the aleocharines from the Maritime Provinces excluding Newfoundland); Dave Langor, Northern Forestry Centre, Canadian Forestry Service (aleocharines of Alberta and Newfoundland); Jon Sweeney, Atlantic Forestry Centre, Canadian Forestry Service; Reggie Webster, Fredericton, New Brunswick (aleocharines from New Brunswick); Anthony Davies, Agriculture Canada (help with CNC specimens and literature assistance); Benoit Godin, Environment Canada (aleocharines from the Yukon); and Neville Winchester, University of Victoria (aleocharines from British Columbia). My support staff, Karine Savard and Georges Pelletier, assisted me in all technical aspects of my work and our Centre’s English editor, Pamela Cheers, edited all my manuscripts. I am endlessly indebted to these individuals because they deserve much credit for the advancement of my work. The progress on the taxonomy of Canadian aleocharines is presented in Table 3, with reference to the genera, number of valid and newly described species and references to the latest revision or review. Our efforts led to the discovery, descriptions, revisions, and cataloguing of the poorly-known species of aleocharine rove beetles, the development of new methods and tools for their identification, the use of this group in new studies on the impact of forestry practices on biodiversity, and enabled the detection of introduced species. For the last 10 years, my collaborators and I have provided new information on over 400 previously poorly-known Canadian species – including the discovery of 62 species new to science and over 300 new distributional records from different provinces of Canada. These species are now available for other applications, e.g. studies on the influence of forestry practices on biodiversity, detection of exotic species, monitoring for climate change, biological control of some insect pest species, and general inventory of the Canadian fauna. Since 1978, there has been evident progress in the taxonomy and classification of the Canadian aleocharine species but the mission is far from being completed. I hope that within the next few years a manual for identification of over 400 Canadian aleocharine species will become a reality and you will all join me in drinking grappa to celebrate. Until then, have fun and think of me when you suffer trying to identify species of this extraordinary group of beetles.

References cited

Ashe, J.S. 1984. Generic revision of the subtribe Gyrophaenina (Coleoptera: Staphylinidae: Aleocharinae) with review of described subgenera and major features of evolution. Questiones Entomologicae 20: 129-349.

Ashe, J.S. 1992. Phylogeny and revision of genera of the subtribe Bolitocharina (Coleoptera: Staphylinidae: Aleocharinae). The University of Kansas Science Bulletin 54: 335-406.

Ashe, J.S. 2001. Keys to the tribes and genera of Nearctic Aleocharinae, pp. 299-374. In: Arnett R.H. and Thomas M.C. (eds.) American Beetles. Volume 1. Archostemata, Myxophaga, Adephaga, Polyphaga. CRC Press, Boca Raton, Florida, 443 pp.

Ashe, J.S., and Gusarov, V.I. 2003. Review of Anatheta Casey (Staphylinidae: Aleocharinae: Athetini), with notes on synonymy of Canastota Casey and Silusida Casey. The Coleopterists Bulletin 57: 27-36.

Assing, V. 1999. A revision of Ilyobates Kraatz, 1856 (Coleoptera, Staphylinidae: Aleocharinae, Oxypodini). Beitrage zur entomologie 49: 292-342.

Frank, J.H., and Thomas, M.C. 1991. The rove beetles of Florida (Coleoptera: Staphylinidae). Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Division of Plant Industry. Entomology Circular 343: 1-6.

Génier, F. 1989. A revision of the genus Hoplandria Kraatz of America north of Mexico (Coleoptera: Staphylinidae: Aleocharinae). Memoirs of the Entomological Society of Canada 150: 1-55.

Gouix, N., and Klimaszewski, J. 2007. Catalogue of aleocharine rove beetles of Canada and Alaska (Coleoptera, Staphylinidae, Aleocharinae). Pensoft, Sofia-Moscow, 165 pp.

Gusarov, V.I. 2002a. A revision of Nearctic species of the genus Geostiba Thomson, 1858 (Coleoptera: Staphylinidae: Aleocharinae). Zootaxa 81: 1-88.

Gusarov, V.I. 2002b. A revision of Nearctic species of the genus Earota Mulsant and Rey, 1874 (Coleoptera: Aleocharinae). Zootaxa 92: 1-16.

Gusarov, V.I. 2002c. A revision of the genus Tropimenelytron Pace, 1983 (Coleoptera: Staphylinidae: Aleocharinae), a new genus for North America. Zootaxa 114: 1-24.

Gusarov, V.I. 2003a. Revision of some types of North American aleocharines (Coleoptera: Staphylinidae: Aleocharinae), with synoptic notes. Zootaxa 239: 1-134.

Gusarov, V.I. 2003b. A revision of Nearctic species of the genus Adota Casey, 1910 and Psammostiba Yoshi and Savada, 1976 (Coleoptera: Staphylinidae: Aleocharinae). Zootaxa 185: 1-35.

Gusarov, I.V. 2003c. A revision of the genus Seeversiella Ashe, 1986 (Coleoptera: Staphylinidae: Aleocharinae). Zootaxa 142: 1-102.

Gusarov, V.I. 2003d. A revision of the genus Goniusa Casey, 1906 (Coleoptera: Staphylinidae: Aleocharinae). Zootaxa 164: 1-20.

Gusarov, V.I. 2004. A revision of the Lypoglossa Fenyes, 1918 (Coleoptera: Staphylinidae: Aleocharinae). Zootaxa 747: 1-36.

Hoebeke, E.R. 1985. A revision of the rove beetle tribe Falagriini of America north of Mexico (Coleoptera: Staphylinidae: Aleocharinae). Journal of the New York Entomological Society 93: 913-1080.

Hoebeke, E.R. 1988. A new species of rove beetles, Autalia phricotrichosa (Coleoptera: Staphylinidae: Aleocharinae) from Mexico, with a key to the new world species of Autalia. The Coleopterists Bulletin 42: 87-93.

Hoebeke, E.R., and Ashe, S.J. 1994. New species of Autalia Leach 1819 from the Neotropics (Coleoptera: Staphylinidae: Aleocharinae) with new distributional data for Autalia phricotrichosa Hoebeke 1988 and key to the Neotropical species of Autalia. Tropical Zoology 7: 191-208.

Klimaszewski, J. 1979. A revision of the Gymnusini and Deinopsini of the world. Coleoptera: Staphylinidae: Aleocharinae. Agriculture Canada, Ottawa Monograph 25: 1-169.

Klimaszewski, J. 1982. Studies of Myllaenini (Coleoptera: Staphylinidae: Aleocharinae). 1. Systematics, phylogeny and zoogeography of Nearctic Myllaena Erichson. The Canadian Entomologist 114: 181-242.

Klimaszewski, J. 1984. A revision of the genus Aleochara Gravenhorst of America north of Mexico (Coleoptera: Staphylinidae, Aleocharinae). Memoirs of the Entomological Society of Canada 129: 3–211.

Klimaszewski, J. 2000. Diversity of the rove beetles in Canada and Alaska (Coleoptera, Staphylinidae). Mémoires de la Société royale belge d’Entomologie 39: 3-126.

Klimaszewski, J., and Peck, S.B. 1986. A review of the cavernicolous Staphylinidae (Coleoptera) of Eastern North America. Part 1. Aleocharinae. Quaestiones Entomologicae 22: 51-113.

Klimaszewski, J., Pelletier, G., Germain, C., Hébert, C., Humble, L.M., and Winchester, N.N. 2001. Diversity of Placusa (Coleoptera: Staphylinidae, Aleocharinae) in Canada, with descriptions of two new species. The Canadian Entomologist 133: 1-47.

Klimaszewski, J., and Winchester, N.N. 2002. Aleocharine rove beetles (Coleoptera: Staphylinidae) of the ancient Sitka spruce forest on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada. Mémoires de la Société royale belge d’Entomologie 40: 3-126.

Klimaszewski, J., Pelletier, G., and Sweeney, J. 2002. Genus Tinotus (Coleoptera: Staphylinidae, Aleocharinae) from America north of Mexico: review of the types, distribution records, and key to species. The Canadian Entomologist 134: 281-298.

Klimaszewski, J., Pohl, G., and Pelletier, G. 2003. Revision of the Nearctic Silusa (Coleoptera, Staphylinidae, Aleocharinae). The Canadian Entomologist 135: 159-186.

Klimaszewski, J., and Pelletier, G. 2004. Review of the Ocalea group of genera (Coleoptera: Staphylinidae: Aleocharinae) in Canada and Alaska: new taxa, bionomics and distribution. The Canadian Entomologist 136: 443-500.

Klimaszewski, J., Pelletier, P., and Majka, C.G. 2004. A revision of Canadian Leptusa Kraatz (Coleoptera, Staphylinidae, Aleocharinae): new species, new distribution records, key and taxonomic considerations. Belgian Journal of Entomology 6: 3-42.

Klimaszewski, J., Sweeney, J., Price, J., and Pelletier, G. 2005a. Rove beetles (Coleoptera: Staphylinidae) in red spruce stands, eastern Canada: diversity, abundance, and descriptions of new species. The Canadian Entomologist 137: 1-48.

Klimaszewski, J., Pelletier, G., Maruyama, M., and Hlavac, P. 2005b. Canadian species of the Zyras group of genera and review of the types from America north of Mexico. Revue suisse de zoologie 112: 703-733.

Klimaszewski, J., and Majka, C.G. 2006. Euvira micmac, a new species (Coleoptera: Staphylinidae: Aleocharinae), and first record of the genus in Canada. The Canadian Entomologist 139: 147-153.

Klimaszewski, J., Pelletier, G., Germain, C., Work, T., and Hébert, C. 2006a. Review of Oxypoda species in Canada and Alaska (Coleoptera: Staphylinidae: Aleocharinae): systematics, bionomics and distribution. The Canadian Entomologist 138: 737-852.

Klimaszewski, J., Majka, C.G., and Langor, D. 2006b. Review of the North American Tarphiota Casey, with a description of a new seashore-inhabiting Atheta species exhibiting convergent characteristics (Coleoptera: Staphylinidae: Aleocharinae). Entomological Science 9: 67-78.

Klimaszewski, J., Langor, D., Savard, K., Pelletier, G., Chandler, D.S., and Sweeney, J. 2007a. Rove beetles (Coleoptera: Staphylinidae) in yellow birch dominated stands of southeastern Quebec, Canada: diversity, abundance, and description of a new species. The Canadian Entomologist 139: 793-833.

Klimaszewski, J., Assing, V., Majka, C.G., Pelletier, G., Webster, R.P., and Langor, D. 2007b. Records of adventive aleocharine beetles (Coleoptera: Staphylinidae: Aleocharinae) found in Canada. The Canadian Entomologist 139: 54-79.

Klimaszewski, J., Godin, B., Pelletier, G., and Savard, K. 2008a. Six new species and records of aleocharine beetles from the Yukon and Alaska (Coleoptera: Staphylinidae: Aleocharinae). The Canadian Entomologist 140: 265-291.

Klimaszewski, J., Savard, K., Pelletier, G., and Webster, R. 2008b. Species review of the genus Gnypeta Thomson from Canada, Alaska and Greenland (Coleoptera, Staphylinidae, Aleocharinae): systematics, bionomics and distribution. ZooKeys 2: 11-84.

Lohse, G.A., Klimaszewski, J., and Smetana, A. 1990. Revision of Arctic Aleocharinae of North America (Coleoptera: Staphylinidae). The Coleopterists Bulletin 44: 121-202.

Majka, C.G., and Klimaszewski, J. 2008a. New records of Canadian Aleocharinae (Coleoptera, Staphylinidae). ZooKeys 2: 85-114.

Majka, C.G., and Klimaszewski, J. 2008b. Adventive Staphylinidae (Coleoptera) of the Maritime Provinces of Canada: further contributions. ZooKeys 2: 151-174.

Majka, C.G., Klimaszewski, J., and Lauff, R.F. 2006a. New Coleoptera records from owl nests in Nova Scotia, Canada. Zootaxa 1194: 33-47.

Majka, C.G., Klimaszewski, J., and Lauff, R.F. 2008. The coastal rove beetles (Coleoptera: Staphylinidae: Aleocharinae) of Atlantic Canada: a survey and records. ZooKeys 2: 115-150.

Majka, C.G., Moseley, M., and Klimaszewski, J. 2006b. Gennadota canadensis Casey (Staphylinidae: Aleocharinae): new records, a range extension, and bionomic notes. The Coleopterists Bulletin 60: 231-234.

Maruyama, M., and Klimaszewski, J. 2004a. A new genus and species of the myrmecophilous Athetini, Paragoniusa myrmicae (Coleoptera: Staphylinidae: Aleocharinae) from Canada. Entomological Review of Japan 59: 241-248.

Maruyama, M., and Klimaszewski, J. 2004b. A new species of myrmecophilous genus Goniusa (Coleoptera, Staphylinidae, Aleocharinae) from Canada. Elytra 32: 315-320.

Maruyama, M., and Klimaszewski, J. 2006. Notes on myrmecophilous aleocharines (Insecta, Coleoptera, Staphylinidae) from Canada, with description of a new species of Myrmoecia. Bulletin of the National Science Museum, Tokyo, Series A 32: 125-131.

Newton, A.F. 1984. Mycophagy in Staphylinoidea (Coleoptera), pp. 302-353. In: Wheeler Q. and Blackwell M. (eds.): Fungi-Insects Relationships: Perspectives in Ecology and Evolution. Columbia University Press, New York, 514 pp.

Newton, A.F., Thayer, M.K., Ashe, J.S., and Chandler, D.S. 2001. Staphylinidae Latreille, 1802, pp. 272-418. In: Arnett R.H. and Thomas M.C. (eds.) American Beetles. Volume 1. Archostemata, Myxophaga, Adephaga, Polyphaga. CRC Press, Boca Raton, Florida, 443 pp.

Paśnik, G. 2006. A revision of the world species of the genus Tachyusa Erichson 1837 (Coleoptera: Staphylinidae: Aleocharinae). Zootaxa 1146: 1-152.

Seevers, C.H. 1978. A generic and tribal revision of the North American Aleocharinae (Coleoptera: Staphylinidae). Fieldiana Zoology 71: i–-vi, 1–289.


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