J.B.S. Haldane once remarked that if there is a creator, they must have an inordinate fondness for beetles. Hundreds of thousands of beetle species have been named; by contrast, there are only about 60,000 described species of vertebrates*. Naturally, the sheer number and diversity of beetles out there is of great interest to biologists.
A new study tackled a portion of this question: color patterns in a single beetle family, Chrysomelidae, and then only the species that live in Australia (that’s still about 750 species!). It is widely understood that the bright coloration found in this beetle family is a warning to predators about their nasty chemical defenses, but is that the whole story?
Of course not, guys, this is biology we’re talking about here! As the paper title below suggests, beetle color is more than just warning signs, and it’s made more complex by life history and ecology. What a tangled web evolution weaves!
For all the colorful details, check out the original publication in Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution: The Role of Life-History and Ecology in the Evolution of Color Patterns in Australian Chrysomeline Beetles (open access).
Update (7/12/17): here’s a press release about the article if you don’t have time to read the whole paper!
Update (7/02/2018): In among these 60,000 are 6,495 recognized mammal species!
Do make sure you scroll aaaalll the way down to the bottom of the post!
Infographic PDF available here.
In the mood for coloring now? Make up your own beetle patterns with these templates!