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Tasmanian Beetles and Fungi

Have you ever heard of Tooth-necked fungus beetles, Pleasing fungus beetles, Minute handsome fungus beetles, Hairy fungus beetles or Fungus Weevils??

 

These wonderfully descriptive common names describe just a few of the Tasmanian beetles that interact with fungi as they explore their habitats of moist leaf litter, trees, rotting logs and undergrowth.

 

There are around 2499 beetle species found across Tasmanian habitats that are both native and highly likely to be found in Tasmania, of which at least 618 are endemic (Grove et al. 2021).

 

A number of species of these beetles in Tasmania of the order Coleoptera, contain adult beetles that prefer fungi as an available food source and, or, to rear their juveniles (larvae). These types of beetles are saproxylic (greek meaning: sapros=rotting and xylos=wood), because a part of their life cycle depends on dead or decaying wood, or on other organisms that also rely on the dead wood (AES 2024), such as wood decaying fungi. 

A list of beetles found in Tasmania that associate with fungi has been provided below. The information for this list is based off the Part 1 Checklist of Tasmanian Coleoptera Beetles by Grove et al. (2021) and insects noted by Daley (2007) in the book Wings - An introduction to Tasmania's winged insects.

A Tasmanian Stag Beetle in the family Lucanidae - members of this family have larvae that feed in rotting wood.

A Tasmanian Stag Beetle in the family Lucanidae - members of this family have larvae that feed in rotting wood.

Tasmanian endemic Darkling Beetle species Coripera deplanata, is widespread in Tasmania.  Its larvae feed in rotten wood.

Tasmanian endemic Darkling Beetle species Coripera deplanata, is widespread in Tasmania.  Its larvae feed in rotten wood.

Ecosystem Engineers

The ability of saproxylic beetles and fungi to decay and recycle wood is vital to nutrient cycling for a healthy forest. Saproxylic beetles and wood decay fungi break down woody debris, creating soil and making nutrients available to other organisms (Wardlaw et al. 2009). 

 

It has been recognised that when clearing a forest, removal of all woody debris through clearing and burning, on rotations of 80-100 year cycles, results in regrowth forests that are 'much simpler in structure than those resulting from natural wildfire' (Wardlaw et al. 2009). 

A forest that is 'much simpler', contains less species richness (total numbers of species in the forest), and less diversity (relative number of organisms within each species). Less complex ecosystems are less resilient against impacts such as climate change and receding habitat (Khan Academy 2024). What this means essentially is that to promote the continuation of complex forests, such as old growth forests in Tasmania, it is important to maintain the species richness and diversity within them to support overcoming adversity. 

 

In wet eucalypt forests in southern Tasmania, the total species richness is comprised mainly of beetles (and other invertebrates), plus fungi (Wardlaw et al. 2009). Mature living eucalyptus trees over 150 years old and the woody debris these trees later provide on the forest floor, contain the highest diversity of wood-decay fungi and saproxylic beetles. Some species of beetles will spend multiple generations existing within the same tree, even after that tree falls over, remaining with the tree trunk/wood until it is decomposed which may take a couple of hundred years to be broken down fully depending on the size (Wardlaw et al. 2009).

 

One way to support richness and diversity of species and therefore ecosystem resilience, is through ensuring mature forests contain woody debris, such as large fallen logs, to provide opportunity for the amazing associations between beetles and wood-decay fungi!

A large fallen tree - Coarse woody debris.jpg

This large, fallen eucalypt tree, (probably over 300 years old when it fell), provides important habitat for saproxylic beetles and wood decay fungi.

A list of Tasmanian Insects that associate with fungi

 

Leiodidae - Round fungus beetles - some species are exclusively associated with particular species of fungi (including truffle-like fungi) or slime moulds.

 

Staphylinidae - Rove beetles - found in moist environments such as rotting wood and leaf litter. Some species are associated with fungi and are fungivorous.

 

Clambidae - Minute fringe-winged beetles -found in leaf-litter and rotting wood, feeding on microfungi or slime moulds.

 

Eucinetidae - plate-thighed beetles - found under bark or in leaf-litter where adults and larvae feed on fungal hyphae.

 

Elateridae - Click-beetles - some live in soil, leaf-ltter or rotting wood and diet includes fungal hyphae.

 

Derodontidae - Tooth-necked fungus beetles. Very small beetles that feed on slime-moulds. Only one species found in Tasmania.

Lucanidae - Stag Beetles - Larvae feed in rotting wood. (see www.tasmanianinsectfieldguide.com)

 

Lymexylidae - Ship-timber beetles, two species in Tasmania. Larvae feed mainly on wood-rotting fungi which is introduced to substrate by female beetle.

 

Ptiliidae - Featherwing beetles - feed on fungal spores and hyphae in moist environments such as leaf litter or rotting wood.

 

Biphyllidae - Living under the bark of trees, larvae are generally thought to be fungivores.

 

Trogossitidae - Bark-gnawing beetles - six Tasmanian species and larvae and adults are either predators, or fungivores in polypores and other fruiting bodies.

 

Cryptophagidae - Silken fungus beetles - six Tasmanian species and larvae and adults feed on fungal spores or mycelium.

 

Erotylidae - Pleasing fungus beetles - Nine Tasmanian species are associated with relatively long-lived, actively growing fungal fruiting-bodies including polypores.

 

Hobartiidae - Hobart beetles - One species in Tasmania and larvae and adults are associated with relatively long-lived actively growing fungal fruiting-bodies such as Grifola where larvae develop.

 

Laemophloeidae - Lined flat bark beetles - 13 Tasmanian species living under bark and are mostly fungivorous.

 

Lamingtoniidae - Lamington beetles - single introduced species in Tasmania. Larvae and adults are found on polypores.

 

Phalacridae - Shining flower beetles - 16 species in Tasmania. Only larvae are found on rusts and smuts.

 

Silvanidae - Silvan flat bark beetles -14 species in Tasmania. Larvae and adults of most species feed on fungal spores and mycelium.

 

Sphindidae - Cryptic slime-mould beetles - two species found in Tasmania. Larvae and adults feed on slime moulds.

 

Tasmosalpingidae - Tasmosalpingid beetles - two species in Tasmania. Adults feed on fungal spores and mycelium.

 

Anamorphidae - Minute handsome fungus beetles. Two species in Tasmania.Larvae and adults are associated with fungi on which they feed.

 

Cerylonidae - Minute bark beetles. Five species in Tasmania. Larvae and adults live in rotten wood and leaf-litter where they may feed on fungal spores and hyphae or predate.

 

Coccinellidae - Ladybirds. Sixty three species found in Tasmania. Some adults and larvae feed on fungal spores or mycelium.

 

Corylophidae - Minute hooded beetles. 12 species in TAsmania. Living in rotting wood and leaf-litter they feed on fungal spores or mycelium and have a close association with macrofungi such as polypores.

 

Endomychidae - Handsome fungus beetles. 1 endemic species in Tasmania. Larvae and adults feed on fungal fruiting-bodies.

 

Euxestidae - Well-polished beetles. 1 species found in Tasmania. Larvae and adults likely to feed on fungal spores or mycelium in rotting wood or leaf-litter.

 

Latridiidae - Minute brown scavenger beetles. 20 species found in Tasmania. Larvae and adults feed on fungal spores in amongst rotting wood and leaf-litter.

 

Teredidae - Teredid beetles. Two species found in Tasmania. Fungivores whereby some larvae line burrows of bark-beetles in Nothofagus (Myrtle) wood with ambrosia fungus.

 

Anthicidae - Ant-like flower beetles. 21 species in Tasmania. Some species are associate with particular fungi.

 

Ciidae - Minute tree-fungus beetles. 13 species in Tasmania. Nearly all of these associate with fungal fruit bodies, usually the long-lived polypore species.

 

Melandryidae - False darkling beetles. 13 species in Tasmania. Adults and larvae are fungivores, of fungus-infested wood and litter.

 

Mycetophagidae - Hairy fungus beetles. 3 species in  Tasmania. Larvae and adults of most species are found in leaf-litter and bark where they feed on fungal mycelium.

 

Pyrochroidae - Fire-coloured beetles. 3 in Tasmania. Larvae live under bark where they perhaps feed on mycelium of wood-rotting fungi.

 

Ulodidae - Ulodid beetles. 7 in Tasmania. Larvae live in rotting wood and feed on fungus. ​

 

Zopheridae - Ironclad beetles and cylindrical bark beetles. 28 in Tasmania. Larvae are fungivorous feeding on rotting wood or bark. ​

 

Anthribidae - Fungus weevils. 8 in Tasmania. Larvae living within rotting wood may feed on the wood or the wood-decomposing fungus, and some others are associated with fungal fruiting-bodies. ​

 

Curculionidae - Weevils. 404 in Tasmania. Some feed on rotting wood or 'cultivate' host specific ambrosia fungi, moving spores across hosts. ​

 

Source: Grove, S.J., Forster, L.G. & Porch, N. 2021. An illustrated checklist of the insects of Tasmania Part 1 - Coleoptera, The Royal Society of Tasmania, Hobart. ​

 

Examples of particular species that associate with fungi:

Darkling Beetle (Lepispilus sulcicollis), Honeybrown Beetle (Ecnolagria grandis) Pintail Beetle - (Mordella promiscua), larvae eat rotten wood and fungus Cnecosa insueta - large fruit-bodies of mushrooms and brackets.

Source: Daley, E. 2007. Wings - An introduction to Tasmania's winged insects.

References:

Amateur Entomologists' Society (AES) 2024. Saproxylic, https://www.amentsoc.org

Daley, E. 2007. Wings - An introduction to Tasmania's winged insects.

Grove, S.J., Forster, L.G. & Porch, N. 2021. An illustrated checklist of the insects of Tasmania Part 1 - Coleoptera, The Royal Society of Tasmania, Hobart. ​

Khan Academy, 2024, High school biology NGSS - Ecosystem resilience and change, 

https://www.khanacademy.org/science/hs-biology/x4c673362230887ef:interactions-in-ecosystems/x4c673362230887ef:ecosystem-resilience-and-change/a/ecosystem-resilience-and-change-article

Wardlaw, T., Grove, S., Hopkins, A., Yee, M., Harrison, K. & Mohammed, C. 2009. The uniqueness of habitats in old eucalypts: contrasting wood-decay fungi and saproxylic beetles of young and old eucalypts, Tasforests, Nov ed., vol.18, pp. 17-32.

Tasmanian insects and fung
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