Tiger beetle

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Tiger beetle
Temporal range: Aptian–Recent
Lophyra sp Tiger beetle edit1.jpg
Lophyra sp in Tanzania
Scientific classification Red Pencil Icon.png
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Coleoptera
Family: Carabidae
Subfamily: Cicindelinae
Latreille, 1802
  • CicindelidaeLatreille, 1802

Tiger beetles are a large group of beetles, from the Cicindelinae subfamily, known for their aggressive predatory habits and running speed. The fastest known species of tiger beetle, Rivacindela hudsoni , can run at a speed of 9 km/h (5.6 mph; 2.5 m/s), or about 125 body lengths per second. [1] As of 2005, about 2,600 species and subspecies were known, with the richest diversity in the Oriental (Indo-Malayan) region, followed by the Neotropics. [2] The group has been suggested to represent a distinct family, the Cicindelidae, as the sister group to Carabidae.



Tiger beetles often have large bulging eyes, long, slender legs and large curved mandibles. All are predatory, both as adults and as larvae. The genus Cicindela has a cosmopolitan distribution. Other well-known genera include Tetracha , Omus , Amblycheila and Manticora . While members of the genus Cicindela are usually diurnal and may be out on the hottest days, Tetracha, Omus, Amblycheila and Manticora are all nocturnal. Both Cicindela and Tetracha are often brightly colored, while the other genera mentioned are usually uniform black in color. Tiger beetles in the genus Manticora are the largest in size of the subfamily. These live primarily in the dry regions of southern Africa.[ citation needed ]

The larvae of tiger beetles live in cylindrical burrows as much as a meter deep. They are large-headed, hump-backed grubs and use their humpbacks to flip backwards, for the purpose of capturing prey insects that wander over the ground. The fast-moving adults run down their prey and are extremely fast on the wing, their reaction times being of the same order as that of common houseflies. Some tiger beetles in the tropics are arboreal, but most run on the surface of the ground. They live along sea and lake shores, on sand dunes, around playa lakebeds and on clay banks or woodland paths, being particularly fond of sandy surfaces. [3]

Tiger beetles are considered a good indicator species and have been used in ecological studies on biodiversity. Several species of wingless parasitic wasps in the genus Methocha (family Thynnidae), lay their eggs on larvae of various Cicindela spp., such as Cicindela dorsalis . [4]


Tiger beetles display an unusual form of pursuit in which they alternatively sprint quickly toward their prey, then stop and visually reorient. This may be because while running, the beetle is moving too fast for its visual system to accurately process images. [1] To avoid obstacles while running they hold their antennae rigidly and directly in front of them to mechanically sense their environment. [5]

Fossil record

The oldest fossil tiger beetle yet found, Cretotetracha grandis, comes from the Yixian Formation in Inner Mongolia, China, and dates to the early Cretaceous Period, 125 million years ago. Most fossils found are grey or yellow silty mudstone. [6] Traits that identify Cretotetracha as Cicindelinae include long mandibles shaped like sickles, simple teeth arranged along the mandible's inner surface, antennae that attach to the head between the base of the mandibles and the eye. The left mandible is approximately 3.3 mm and the right mandible is approximately 4.2mm long. A long body form roughly around 8.1mm where the combined eyes and head are wider than the thorax, and long running legs. [6] Previously known Mesozoic fossils of tiger beetles have been described from the Crato Formation, about 113 million years ago [6] and Oxycheilopsis cretacicus from the Santana Formation, 112 million years ago, [7] both in Brazil.


Tiger beetles were traditionally classified as the family Cicindelidae but most authorities now treat them as the subfamily Cicindelinae of the Carabidae (ground beetles). The most recent classifications, however, have relegated them to a monophyletic subgroup within the subfamily Carabinae, though this is not yet universally accepted. Accordingly, there is no consensus classification for this group, at any level from family down to subspecies, and it can be exceedingly difficult to decipher the taxonomic literature surrounding this group. Many genera are the result of the splitting of the large genus Cicindela , and many were described by the German entomologist Walther Horn. Molecular phylogenies have also treated Cicindelidae as a distinct family separate from carabids. [8] [9]



  1. 1 2 Friedlander, Blaine (1998-01-16). "Cornell News, Jan. 16, 1998 When tiger beetles chase prey at high speeds they go blind temporarily, Cornell entomologists learn". News.cornell.edu. Retrieved 2020-10-26.
  2. Pearson, D.L. & F. Cassola, 2005
  3. Werner, K. 2000
  4. Burdick, D.J. and Wasbauer, M.S. (1959). "Biology of Methocha californica Westwood (Hymenoptera: Tiphiidae)." Wasmann Jour. Biol. 17:75-88. Department of Environmental Conservation
  5. "Blinded by speed, tiger beetles use antennae to 'see' while running". ScienceDaily. Retrieved 2020-10-26.
  6. 1 2 3 Zhao, Xiangdong; Zhao, Xianye; Chen, Lei; Wang, Bo (2019). "The earliest tiger beetle from the Lower Cretaceous of China (Coleoptera: Cicindelinae)". Cretaceous Research . 94: 147–151. doi:10.1016/j.cretres.2018.10.019.
  7. Gough, Harlan M.; Duran, Daniel P.; Kawahara, Akito Y.; Toussaint, Emmanuel F.A. (2018). "A comprehensive molecular phylogeny of tiger beetles (Coleoptera, Carabidae, Cicindelinae)". Systematic Entomology . 44 (2): 1–17. doi:10.1111/syen.12324. S2CID   54046862.
  8. Vasilikopoulos, Alexandros; Balke, Michael; Kukowka, Sandra; Pflug, James M.; Martin, Sebastian; Meusemann, Karen; Hendrich, Lars; Mayer, Christoph; Maddison, David R.; Niehuis, Oliver; Beutel, Rolf G.; Misof, Bernhard (October 2021). "Phylogenomic analyses clarify the pattern of evolution of Adephaga (Coleoptera) and highlight phylogenetic artefacts due to model misspecification and excessive data trimming". Systematic Entomology. 46 (4): 991–1018. doi:10.1111/syen.12508. ISSN   0307-6970.
  9. Baca, Stephen M.; Gustafson, Grey T.; Alexander, Alana M.; Gough, Harlan M.; Toussaint, Emmanuel F. A. (October 2021). "Integrative phylogenomics reveals a Permian origin of Adephaga beetles". Systematic Entomology. 46 (4): 968–990. doi:10.1111/syen.12506. ISSN   0307-6970.

General and cited references

Related Research Articles

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Cicindela hybrida, also known as the northern dune tiger beetle, has a wide distribution in the Palaearctic region.

<i>Lophyra</i> Genus of beetles

Lophyra is a genus of tiger beetles in the family Carabidae capable of flight. It contains the following species:

<i>Apteroessa</i> Genus of beetles

Apteroessa grossa is a species of tiger beetles in the family Carabidae, the sole species in the genus Apteroessa and described on the basis of a specimen from the Coromandel region (Tranquebar) in southern India. It is somewhat large and robust, and is among the few tiger beetles with highly reduced wings making them flightless. There are three known specimens in museums, with varying degrees of damage. The species has not been seen in the wild after its description in the 18th century and is thought to be extremely local in distribution.

<i>Dromica</i> Genus of beetles

Dromica is a genus of beetles in the family Carabidae, containing the following species:

Euryarthron is a genus of beetles in the family Carabidae, containing the following species:

<i>Megacephala</i> Genus of beetles

Megacephala is a small genus of beetles in the family Carabidae restricted to Africa; it was formerly a much larger genus, but its constituent species have been subsequently placed in other genera, primarily Tetracha, but also Grammognatha, Metriocheila, Phaeoxantha, and Pseudotetracha.

<i>Myriochila</i> Genus of beetles

Myriochila is a genus of tiger beetles in the family Carabidae, containing the following species:

<i>Polyrhanis</i> Genus of beetles

Polyrhanis is a genus of beetles in the family Carabidae, containing the following species:

<i>Prothyma</i> Genus of beetles

Prothyma is a genus of beetles in the family Carabidae, containing the following species:

<i>Pseudoxycheila</i> Genus of beetles

Pseudoxycheila is a genus of beetles in the family Carabidae, containing the following species:

<i>Tetracha</i> Genus of beetles

Tetracha is a genus of metallic tiger beetles in the family Carabidae, formerly treated as a subgenus within the genus Megacephala. Tetracha species are exclusively New World in distribution, while Megacephala are exclusively Old World in distribution. There are ~100 described species in Tetracha.

Pterostichinae Subfamily of beetles

Pterostichinae is a subfamily of ground beetles. It belongs to the advanced harpaline assemblage, and if these are circumscribed sensu lato as a single subfamily, Pterostichinae are downranked to a tribe Pterostichini. However, as the former Pterostichitae supertribe of the Harpalinae as loosely circumscribed does seem to constitute a lineage rather distinct from Harpalus, its core group is here considered to be the present subfamily and the Harpalinae are defined more narrowly.

<i>Cylindera dromicoides</i> Species of beetle

Cylindera dromicoides is a species of ground beetle of the subfamily Cicindelinae. It is flightless and has been found mainly along the Himalayas from India through Nepal and Bhutan and in the Chinese province of Yunnan.

Cicindelini Tribe of beetles

Cicindelini is a tribe of tiger beetles in the family Carabidae, containing the overwhelming majority of genera (>110) and species in the subfamily.

Megacephalini Tribe of beetles

Megacephalini is a tribe of big-headed tiger beetles in the family Carabidae.

<i>Rivacindela hudsoni</i> Species of beetle

Rivacindela hudsoni is an Australian species of the family Cicindelinae or "tiger beetle" and is the fastest-running known insect. The genus Rivacindela is contentiously treated as a subgenus of the broader Cicindela and are typically found in saline habitats such as dry salt lakes and salt streams and are flightless. The species was discovered in South Australia and described in 1997, with an adult form of approximately 20–21mm in length and a running speed of 2.49m/s, or 120 body lengths per second. The comprehensive phylogeny that defines the Rivacindela hudsoni is as follows: Animalia, Arthropoda, Insecta, Coleoptera, Carabidae, Cicindelinae, Rivacindela, Rivacindela hudsoni.

Calochroa is a genus of beetles belonging to the family Carabidae. Some authors treat them within the broader genus Cicindela. The genus as used in 2020 shows polyphyly with Calochroa species forming two clades with one clade being a sister to the genus Lophyra and another being a sister to the genus Hipparidium.

<i>Cicindela goryi</i> Species of insect

Cicindela goryi is a species of tiger beetle from southern India. It was earlier treated as a subspecies of the closely related Cicindela aurofasciata.