Blog

Beetles in print

By: Dr Chris Reid, Category: Science, Date: 24 Mar 2014

Two new books provide the keys to help scientists unlock Australia’s most diverse group of organisms: the beetles.

Australian Beetles cover

 © CSIRO Publishing

Beetles are Australia’s most diverse group of organisms, and these two large-format tomes describe just part of this diversity. The books are definitely not coffee table decorations, and most readers will require some expertise in entomology in order to use them. But for amateurs and professionals having more than a passing interest in beetles, they provide excellent introductions to their subjects. 

Longhorns

Australian longhorn beetles is the more accessible of the two books. Longhorns are generally large and conspicuous beetles, commonly flying to street lights and bedroom windows. Many are also active during the day, visiting flowers, especially acacias and eucalypts. Some are pests, or potential pests, of plants as diverse as lucerne, grapes and figs.

The subjects of this book, the lamiines, are my favourite longhorns. Their forelegs are strong and their faces are truncated, with arched antennae and deflexed mouths giving them a sombre, slightly malevolent appearance.

They’ve attracted much attention from taxonomists but until now accurate identification has been impossible. This book provides the first comprehensive treatment of the group, rationalising a plethora of names (140 genera down to 70) and updating their classification. The book is beautifully illustrated and well organised, with hundreds of colour photographs.

The result is liberating – finally we can identify any Australian lamiine longhorn beetle to genus level.  

Australian Beetles

The second volume, Australian Beetles, is a serious book designed for researchers, students and those who need to understand the diversity of beetles in Australia, such as ecologists, pest controllers and quarantine inspectors.

The book provides an authoritative guide to Australian beetles at the family level and forms the baseline for all future research on beetles in Australia.

Our taxonomic knowledge is being continually updated and this volume replaces an earlier one from 1994 by John Lawrence and Ev Britton, which was itself a revision of their 1990 edition. The 2013 edition presents the latest classification, revised identification keys and many new illustrations. It features expanded introductory sections on, for example, fossil history and general morphology, and provides full descriptions of families, with lists of included genera.

It is marred only by the incorporation of the figures in small blocks throughout the text, where they are difficult to find.

Australian Beetles is the first of three volumes being written by a consortium of specialists, including myself. The trilogy will eventually provide identification keys to, and short diagnostic descriptions of, almost all Australian beetle genera – a goal that, with this first volume, is at last within sight.

Dr Chris Reid, Principal Research Scientist

 

Further reading
Australian longhorn beetles (Coleoptera: Cerambycidae)
Volume 1 Introduction and subfamily Lamiinae
by Adam Slipinski & Hermes Escalona
CSIRO Publishing, 2013

Australian beetles
Volume 1 Morphology, classification & keys
by John Lawrence & Adam Slipinski
CSIRO Publishing, 2013