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Kids' Inquiry of Diverse Species

Coleoptera

What do they look like?

Beetles are like all insects, they have a head, thorax, and abdomen, and six legs. Their bodies tend to be very solid and tough. They have chewing mouthparts and often have powerful jaws. Adult beetles have modified wings: the first pair of wings is small and very hard, and acts as a protective covering for the second pair of wings. Many beetles can fly with their second pair of wings. Most adult beetles are brown or black, but some are very brightly colored. Beetle larvae look sort of like worms, but they have six legs and a hard head. Beetle pupa can't move and are covered with a leathery skin.

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • sexes alike
  • female larger
  • male larger
  • sexes colored or patterned differently
  • sexes shaped differently
  • ornamentation

Where do they live?

Beetles are the most diverse group of insects. There are over 300,000 species known to science, and probably many tens of thousands more still unknown. Beetles are found on land and in fresh water all over the world.

What kind of habitat do they need?

Beetles are found in just about every habitat. Most species live on plants, others tunnel or burrow, some swim.

  • Aquatic Biomes
  • lakes and ponds
  • rivers and streams

How do they grow?

Beetles have four different stages in their life cycle. Adult female beetles mate and lay eggs. The eggs hatch into a larval stage that is wingless. The larva feed and grow, and eventually change into a pupal stage. The pupa does not move or feed. Eventually the pupa transforms into an adult beetle.

How do they reproduce?

Female beetles usually lay dozens or hundreds of eggs. Reproduction is often timed to match the time of most available food.

  • Breeding season
    Breeding season varies, often in spring or summer

Adult beetles mate, and the female lays eggs on or very near a food source for her larvae. Some beetles collect a supply of food for their larvae, and lay the egg in the ball of food. Some scavenger beetles even feed their babies.

How long do they live?

Most beetle species complete their lives in a single year. Some, especially larger ones, live for more than a year, hatching in summer, a few months to a year or more as a larva and pupa, and then emerging to reproduce as an adult.

How do they behave?

Most beetles are active at night, but some are active in daylight (especially if they have chemical defense). Often they time their growth and reproduction so all the adults emerge at once, and for a short time you can find lots of a particular species.

How do they communicate with each other?

Most beetles communicate with other beetles with chemicals. Males often locate females by their scent. Beetles usually can't see very well. Some beetle make sounds, usually scraping their mouthparts together or rubbing their legs on their bodies. Some beetles that live in dead wood drum and make vibrations. "Fireflies' and "lightning bugs' are actually beetles. They glow in the dark to communicate.

What do they eat?

Beetles eat all kinds of food. Most are specialists in few kinds, but some, like ground beetles, eat lots of things. Most beetles eat plant parts, either leaves or seeds or fruit or wood. Many are predators on other small animals. Some eat fungus, and there are a bunch of species that eat dung. Sometimes the larvae eat different foods than the adults do.

What eats them and how do they avoid being eaten?

Most beetles hide, and many beetle larvae dig tunnels to hide in. Some rely on their hard shell. Some, like lady beetles, have toxic chemicals to repel predators. Some can bite. Some, like ground beetles, run fast.

What roles do they have in the ecosystem?

Beetles have lots of roles. Dung beetles help get rid of waste, beetles that eat wood help break down dead trees, some beetles feed on pollen and help pollinate flowers.

Do they cause problems?

Beetle species are important pests because some of them eat our food. Some eat fruits or vegetable or other crops in the field, and others eat them in storage. Farmers have to spend lots of money and energy protecting their crops from beetles. Some beetles tunnel in wood, and these can kill or damage trees, or damage things we make from wood, like furniture, or even houses!

  • Ways that these animals might be a problem for humans
  • injures humans
    • bites or stings
  • crop pest
  • household pest

How do they interact with us?

Some beetle species are important predators of pests, and others do valuable clean-up jobs, getting rid of dung and breaking down dead plants. A few species are now being used to eat problem weed plants as well.

  • Ways that people benefit from these animals:
  • controls pest population

Are they endangered?

Most beetle species are abundant, and don't need to be especially conserved. Beetles that live in habitats that are getting changed or wiped out could be in trouble, and some beetles depend on certain plant species. If the plant goes, they go. There is a species of aquatic beetle that only lives in a few rivers in northern Michigan. It is considered endangered.

  • IUCN Red List [Link]
    Not Evaluated

Some more information...

The heaviest insects in the world are beetles. There are some African and South American beetles that are as big as your fist!

Glossary

Australian

Living in Australia, New Zealand, Tasmania, New Guinea and associated islands.

World Map

Ethiopian

living in sub-Saharan Africa (south of 30 degrees north) and Madagascar.

World Map

Nearctic

living in the Nearctic biogeographic province, the northern part of the New World. This includes Greenland, the Canadian Arctic islands, and all of the North American as far south as the highlands of central Mexico.

World Map

Neotropical

living in the southern part of the New World. In other words, Central and South America.

World Map

Palearctic

living in the northern part of the Old World. In otherwords, Europe and Asia and northern Africa.

World Map

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends.

biodegradation

helps break down and decompose dead plants and/or animals

bog

a wetland area rich in accumulated plant material and with acidic soils surrounding a body of open water. Bogs have a flora dominated by sedges, heaths, and sphagnum.

carnivore

an animal that mainly eats meat

chaparral

mid-altitude coastal areas with mild, rainy winters and long, dry summers. Dominant plant types are dense, evergreen shrubs.

crepuscular

active at dawn and dusk

desert or dunes

in deserts low (less than 30 cm per year) and unpredictable rainfall results in landscapes dominated by plants and animals adapted to aridity. Vegetation is typically sparse, though spectacular blooms may occur following rain. Deserts can be cold or warm and daily temperates typically fluctuate. In dune areas vegetation is also sparse and conditions are dry. This is because sand does not hold water well so little is available to plants. In dunes near seas and oceans this is compounded by the influence of salt in the air and soil. Salt limits the ability of plants to take up water through their roots.

diurnal
  1. active during the day, 2. lasting for one day.
ectothermic

animals which must use heat acquired from the environment and behavioral adaptations to regulate body temperature

female parental care

parental care is carried out by females

fertilization

union of egg and spermatozoan

forest

forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.

freshwater

mainly lives in water that is not salty.

herbivore

An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.

heterothermic

animals that have little or no ability to regulate their body temperature, body temperatures fluctuate with the temperature of their environment, often referred to as 'cold-blooded'.

internal fertilization

fertilization takes place within the female's body

introduced

referring to animal species that have been transported to and established populations in regions outside of their natural range, usually through human action.

iteroparous

offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).

male parental care

parental care is carried out by males

marsh

marshes are wetland areas often dominated by grasses and reeds.

metamorphosis

A large change in the shape or structure of an animal that happens as the animal grows. In insects, "incomplete metamorphosis" is when young animals are similar to adults and change gradually into the adult form, and "complete metamorphosis" is when there is a profound change between larval and adult forms. Butterflies have complete metamorphosis, grasshoppers have incomplete metamorphosis.

monogamous

Having one mate at a time.

motile

having the capacity to move from one place to another.

mountains

This terrestrial biome includes summits of high mountains, either without vegetation or covered by low, tundra-like vegetation.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.

nocturnal

active during the night

oceanic islands

islands that are not part of continental shelf areas, they are not, and have never been, connected to a continental land mass, most typically these are volcanic islands.

omnivore

an animal that mainly eats all kinds of things, including plants and animals

oriental

found in the oriental region of the world. In other words, India and southeast Asia.

World Map

oviparous

reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.

ovoviviparous

reproduction in which eggs develop within the maternal body without additional nourishment from the parent and hatch within the parent or immediately after laying.

poisonous

an animal which has a substance capable of killing, injuring, or impairing other animals through its chemical action (for example, the skin of poison dart frogs).

polar

the regions of the earth that surround the north and south poles, from the north pole to 60 degrees north and from the south pole to 60 degrees south.

polymorphic

"many forms." A species is polymorphic if its individuals can be divided into two or more easily recognized groups, based on structure, color, or other similar characteristics. The term only applies when the distinct groups can be found in the same area; graded or clinal variation throughout the range of a species (e.g. a north-to-south decrease in size) is not polymorphism. Polymorphic characteristics may be inherited because the differences have a genetic basis, or they may be the result of environmental influences. We do not consider sexual differences (i.e. sexual dimorphism), seasonal changes (e.g. change in fur color), or age-related changes to be polymorphic. Polymorphism in a local population can be an adaptation to prevent density-dependent predation, where predators preferentially prey on the most common morph.

rainforest

rainforests, both temperate and tropical, are dominated by trees often forming a closed canopy with little light reaching the ground. Climbing plants are also abundant. There is plenty of moisture and rain, but may be somewhat seasonal.

scrub forest

scrub forests develop in areas that experience dry seasons.

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season

sedentary

remains in the same area

semelparous

offspring are all produced in a single group (litter, clutch, etc.), after which the parent usually dies. Semelparous organisms often only live through a single season/year (or other periodic change in conditions) but may live for many seasons. In both cases reproduction occurs as a single investment of energy in offspring, with no future chance for investment in reproduction.

sexual

reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female

solitary

lives alone

swamp

a wetland area that may be permanently or intermittently covered in water, often dominated by woody vegetation.

taiga

this biome is characterized by large expanses of coniferous forest, there is an extended cold season and heavy snowfall.

temperate

that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).

terrestrial

Living on the ground.

tropical

the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.

tundra

A terrestrial biome found in very cold places -- either close to polar regions or high on mountains. Part of the soil stays frozen all year. Few kinds of plants grow here, and these are low mats or shrubs not trees. The growing season is short.

year-round breeding

breeding takes place throughout the year

 
University of Michigan Museum of ZoologyNational Science Foundation

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. "Coleoptera" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 24, 2014 at http://www.biokids.umich.edu/accounts/Coleoptera/

BioKIDS is sponsored in part by the Interagency Education Research Initiative. It is a partnership of the University of Michigan School of Education, University of Michigan Museum of Zoology, and the Detroit Public Schools. This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant DRL-0628151.
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