Field of Science

The Barrington Tops Stag Beetle

The stag beetles of the Lucanidae are among the most dramatic of all beetles. They are large, glossy, and the adult males often have greatly enlarged mandibles that are used in conflict with other males. As larvae, lucanids are found feeding on rotting wood; adults may feed on nectar and are largely nocturnal. Australia is home to its share of lucanid diversity though the need for suitable food for larvae means that they are mostly restricted to damper regions of the country. As a result, many Australian stag beetles have limited ranges, rendering them vulnerable if not (in this time of rising temperatures and reduced rainfalls) actively endangered. One such species is the Barrington stag beetle Lissapterus tetrops.

Female (left) and major male Lissapterus tetrops, from Coleptera7777.


The Barrington Tops is a mountain range forming part of the Great Dividing Range in New South Wales, direct north from Newcastle. The Barrington stag beetle was described from this range in 1916 by Arthur Lea, one of Australia's most prolific coleopterologists, and is restricted to rain forests at the upper heights of the range. Lissapterus is an endemic Australian genus of flightless stag beetles distinguished from other members of the family by the shape of the antennae. The terminal club that is usually characteristic of the antennae of stag beetles is less defined in Lissapterus with the last few segments of the short antennae being little larger than the rest. Like most other species in the genus, L. tetrops is almost entirely black, only becoming slightly reddish on the legs and antennae. It grows about an inch in length, males and females being not that dissimilar in size. Lissapterus tetrops differs from other species in the genus in lacking foveae on the pronotum and (mostly) on the head, being relatively sparsely punctate dorsally, and having the eye completely divided by a canthus. Major males have long curved mandibles with a pair of teeth internally near the midpoint, placed one above the other. Minor males and females have much smaller, more ordinary looking mandibles.

The natural history of this species is little known but it presumably resembles that of other species in the genus. Adults are found under rotting logs partially buried in the forest floor that provide food for the larvae. Adults may live for a long time, potentially up to about a year, though it is unclear what exactly they feed on. Other species of Lissapterus are mostly found in disjunct locations up and down the Great Dividing Range, their populations presumably becoming separated as the warming and drying of Australia's climate as it moved northwards forced them out of the lowlands. As the climate continues to become warmer and drier, these beetles may find themselves having to retreat higher and higher, and eventually they may find themselves with no further to go.

REFERENCE

Lea, A. M. 1916. Notes on some miscellaneous Coleoptera, with descriptions of new species. Part II. Transactions of the Royal Society of South Australia 40: 272–436, pls 32–39.

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