Field of Science


Trichosternus vigorsi, copyright Udo Schmidt.

Many of the carabid ground beetles tend to attract a lot of attention from amateur entomologists due to their size and striking appearance, but it must be admitted that they are often not the easiest of animals to work with from a taxonomic perspective. The larger species tend to fall into the category of 'big, black, massive sharp mandibles' and it can require a lot of practice to reliably identify which genus a specimen belongs to, let alone species.

Trichosternus is a genus of ground beetles found in far eastern Australia, from the base of Cape York in Queensland to a bit north of Sydney in New South Wales, in the band of land between the coast and the Great Dividing Range. There is also a single isolated species T. relictus in the southwest corner of Western Australia, and apparently another in New Caledonia (Darlington 1961). However, considering the difficulty that many authors have had in the past in providing an exact definition for Trichosternus relative to other closely related genera, it would be interesting to see if future studies corroborate the inclusion of these outlying species. By way of contrast, a reasonable number of New Zealand species assigned at one time or another to Trichosternus have all long since been moved elsewhere.

Trichosternus species are all flightless and in most the elytra are fused and cannot open (the exception is T. relictus). Most species have a distinctive male genital morphology, with the genital opening deflected to the right and the right paramere (the parameres are two sclerotised 'arms' on either side of the genitalia) modified into a specialised falcate shape, the exact functional significance of which seems to remain unknown. Again, the outlier in this regard is T. relictus in which said paramere retains a primitive styloid shape. Similar falcate parameres are also known from members of related genera such as Megadromus and Nurus; the latter is particularly similar to Trichosternus with the only real difference between the two being that Nurus is more robust with longer mandibles. Trichosternus relictus also has a distinctive female genital morphology, in which the internal passage between the median oviduct (where emerging eggs are fertilised by sperm stored in the spermatheca) and the vagina is remarkably extended and concertina-like. Again, the function of this structure is unknown though Moore (1965) suggested that it might be related to viviparity.

Northern Trichosternus species found in tropical Queensland are all inhabitants of rainforest (hence the restriction of the genus to east of the Great Dividing Range: on the western side of the range, rainforests are absent and the arid zone begins). Southern species are found in upland temperate rainforests or in savannah woodland (Darlington 1961). Some species have very restricted ranges: T. montorum, for instance, is known from two mountains on the Spec Plateau, Mts Bartle Frere and Bellenden Ker.


Darlington, P. J., Jr. 1961. Australian carabid beetles VII. Trichosternus, especially the tropical species. Psyche 68 (4): 113–130.

Moore, B. P. 1965. Studies on Australian Carabidae (Coleoptera). 4.—The Pterostichinae. Transactions of the Royal Entomological Society of London 117 (1): 1–32.


  1. I settled the "Trichosternus in new Caledonia" thing in 2011 Punchline, it isn't there. We are now working on a study of the whole Trichosternus-series genera clade which should be published by the end of 2018.


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