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Biodiversity Blog


Featured Species: Clown Beetle

Hister1 X3 web 

Clown beetles, also known as Hister beetles, are a family (Histeridae) that contains over 3900 species. Their unusually glossy-but-sculptured surfaces and spiny appendages make them sought after by some collectors. They are found throughout the world, but not terribly common in Central Texas, which is why when Dr. Alex Wild, Curator in the Entomology Collection, found one at Brackenridge Field Lab, there was a lot of excitement! The appearance of the beetle in the photo is the first recorded appearance at BFL, thus earning it the spotlight as the Featured Species. This one is a Hister lagoi. For a place as heavily studied as BFL is, it is quite amazing that the field station still turns up new records like this.

They are predatory feeders, active generally at night, and eat other insects, as well as their larvae and eggs. When disturbed, they play dead. Because of this behavior, some believe this is how they acquired one of their common names as “hister.” In Latin, “hister” means “actor.” They can be found in dead vegetation, carrion, dung, under tree bark, and in ant or termite colonies.

For the Hister beetles that live with ants, it’s a varied relationship! Some are fed by the ants, and some eat leftover larvae the ants discard. Then there are some that will actually consume ants. 

Hister beetles can also prove valuable when it comes to forensic investigations and determining the time of death.

The record of this beetle’s appearance at BFL is now on GBIF. https://www.gbif.org/occurrence/3053575343

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