“Armoured tank beetle”


Photo details: Panasonic DMC-FX3 (macro setting w/ auto exposure, aperature, and focus), illumination by two 23w compact fluorescent light bulbs. Post processing details: Adobe PhotoShop Elements 6.0 to crop, adjust brightness and contrast, remove pinhead, erase background, and sharpen.

In my last post, I briefly mentioned a beast of a beetle that we had given the nickname “armoured tank beetle.” Using (Picker et al. 2002), I determined this beetle to represent the species, Anomalipus elephas (family Tenebrionidae) – whose actual common name of “large armoured darkling beetle” was amazingly close to our made-up common name (not to mention the appropriateness of its specific epithet) – and linked to an online photograph of the species. As it turns out, the genus Anomalipus is quite large, with 51 species distributed throughout eastern and southern Africa – 34 of which have been recorded from South Africa proper (Iwan 2002). I’ve learned better than to ascribe species names to specimens in diverse groups of which I am not an expert based on a photograph of a common species, so for now this specimen will have to be called Anomalipus sp. Endrödy-Younga and Tschinkel (1993) report that all species in this genus are heavily built with strong legs, with most species being restricted within their geographical range to dense bush-covered patches of woody savanna.

After I wrote that post, I got to looking at the larger of my two specimens and thought, “Gee, I bet I could get a nice shot of that thing.” After all, it measures an impressive 32 mm in length (that’s 1¼ inches, folks!). Here is the result, and I have to admit I’m quite pleased given my equipment limitations (I only wish I’d thought to brush him off a little bit). This really has to be the most beautiful “big, black, ugly beetle” I’ve ever seen. I recall when I was pinning these two specimens that the exoskeleton was so hard I literally had to use my scissors to hammer the pin to get it going into the specimens. I like “armoured tank beetle” better.

In unrelated news, there are a couple of Carnivals everyone should be aware of – I’m doing my part to get the word out:

Circle of the Spineless – Ed Baker over at Invertebrate Diaries is set to host the next issue on March 2, 2009. There’s your deadline!

Linneaus Legacy – The January issue, hosted at Greg Laden’s Blog, was a good one.  Seeds Aside is hosting the February edition and is hoping to post it later this week if he gets enough submissions!  Go to this post for details on where to submit your post (or those from other blogs you enjoy).  EDIT: Too late – edition #16 is now posted.


Endrödy-Younga, S. and W. Tschinkel. 1993. Estimation of population size and dispersal in Anomalipus mastodon Fåhraeus, 1870 (Coleoptera: Tenebrionidae: Platynotini). Annals of the Transvaal Museum 36(4):21-30.

Iwan, D. 2002. Catalogue of the World Platynotini (Coleoptera: Tenebrionidae). Genus 13(2):219-323.

Picker, M., C. Griffiths and A. Weaving. 2002. Field Guide to Insects of South Africa. Struik Publishers, Cape Town, 444 pp.

Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2009

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4 thoughts on ““Armoured tank beetle”

  1. That is a lovely photo! Well done.

    One thing of which I have not photographed much is large beetles. I’m inspired…It can’t get warm enough fast enough for me.


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