Mysterious Mimicry at Lambs Head

Pterostichines are some of the world’s most awesome carabid beetles (see more about them at ToLWeb), but nowhere are they cooler than in Australia. Recently I have been working on the big genus Notonomus and it’s less-diverse near relative (probably congener) Leiradira. Many are stunningly beautiful metallic colors like the undescribed beauty above.  Not only is it easy on the eye, it is also part of an amazing pattern of apparent mimicry. Based on specimens and information sent to me by Geoff Monteith of the Queensland Museum,  there appears to be very localized sets of large flightless carabid species or color-morphs that all share similar colors in a given area. Although the fully described pattern will be more complex, it basically looks like this: North of the Lambs Range (see blue area on map) are several blue to green beetles, including the blue form of Notonomus montorum, another Leiradira sp.nov. and Trichosternus frater[checked records and these are not sympatric] Meanwhile, south of the seemingly minor area of lower elevation (the northern yellow line on map) is Lambs Head Range (in red) where we find a set of conspicuously red-bronze species, including Leiradira aurifer, the Notonomus shown above, an undescribed red-bronze Trichosternus and the red-bronze form of Notonomus montorum.

 Leiradira aurifer and the undescribed Notonomus shown above are so similar that both Geoff and I sorted them together without knowing there was a mix. Only a detailed study of the morphology revealed that it was two genera in the sample. Southward, after another lowland break, we find a mix of differently colored species. Why does the Lambs Head Range have an apparent mimicry complex of red-bronze beauties? We are pondering that now and scheming on how I can get back to NQLD to collect specimens for molecular work and to see if we can find some difference in the behaviors or microhabitat.

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About Kip Will

I'm an insect systematist with expertise in carabid beetles, who is always happiest in the bush.
This entry was posted in Carabids, Pterostichines and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Mysterious Mimicry at Lambs Head

  1. Pingback: Notonomus barrae, a new species named in honor of Cheryl Barr | pterostichini

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