Biodiversity Highlight - Series #1: Lucanidae of the Bull Run Mountains - Part One

Biodiversity Highlight (Series #1: Part One): Platycerus quercus (Oak Stag Beetle)
Virginia Outdoors Foundation - Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve

Platycerus quercus (Oak Stag Beetle) ♀ spotted at the South Section Trails

© Izabella Farr (@izafarr), some rights reserved (CC-BY-NC)

Hello everyone!

Welcome to the first in a new series of posts focusing on the amazing biodiversity held within The Preserve. It has been a while since my last post and new highlights have been irregular (quite the understatement). Today I will be experimenting with some new content to better highlight some of my favorite species that can be observed at The Preserve. To start us off, we will be delving into one of the most interesting families of insects - the Lucanidae, or stag beetles. The Preserve is home to several species of stag beetle, though they are seldom seen. If you've already poured through the project filter you'll see that three different species have been observed on the trails and backwoods of The Preserve. In addition to these three amazing critters, I'll be adding another species that has been observed just outside the preserve and is very likely within the Preserve's border - just waiting to be recorded. These species include:

Dorcus parallelus (Antelope Beetle)
Ceruchus piceus (Red-rot decay stag beetle)
Lucanus capreolus (Reddish-brown stag beetle)
Platycerus quercus (Oak stag Beetle)

Let us start with a little background. Lucanidae is a relatively small family within Coleoptera and contains approximately 1,500 species (It may sound like a lot, but families like Scarabaeidae have over 30,000 species!). The area of the world with the highest Lucanidae diversity in Asia also contains some of the largest and most striking examples of the family. Within the United States the most striking example of a stag beetle is the American giant stag beetle, Lucanus elaphus . The giant stag beetle boasts the largest mandibles of any other North American Lucanidae. L. elaphus is one of my favorite species and a subject of my own research projects, but doesn't occur this far North in Virginia and will not be included on this list. Big mandibles are cool, but bigger doesn't always mean more interesting. You may have already noticed the intimidating mandibles of the male oak stag beetle highlighted below - an interesting feature a common observer may overlook due to the small size of the species. The nuance of morphology in Lucanidae is all the more on show in the smaller species, especially Platycerus.

Platycerus quercus (Oak Stag Beetle) ♂ - male specimen observed in Oklahoma

© Thomas Shahan (@tshahan), some rights reserved (CC-BY-NC)

The namesake of this species is not leaving much to the imagination. The species is most associated with Quercus species throughout its range. As far as common naming conventions go, honesty is always the best way to make a species more reflective of its ecology - the more it makes sense the better (Looking at your earwigs). Typical of the family, the oak stag beetle spends most of its life as a larval grub deep underground in the decaying roots and wood of oak and other hardwood trees. The adult form of the beetle is only a brief period of life in which the beetle emerges from the ground to disperse, compete for females (in regards to males), locate adequate habitat to oviposit (lay eggs - more for the ladies), and end their multiyear journey of life. These periods only last a few months each year, usually between March and June. Females may overwinter to oviposit and can be encountered in the winter months under tree bark or rotting wood cavities. While several studies have been published regarding the general natural history, life cycle, and mating behaviors of this species - there is always more to learn.

Like other species of Lucanidae, the well-endowed mandibles are used for male-on-male combat to secure mating privileges with females. Those recurved, serrated mandibles can be used to bluff another beetle into submission or back up his bravado. Most of the time these battles result in little injury to the combatants. If a smaller contestant decides to push a much larger rival into battle, however, the result can be fatal. Although these natural spectacles are typically out of view for most nature enthusiasts, these tiny forest warriors emphasize the wildness and drama that awaits to be found if one only decides to look a little closer.

ABOUT #BullRunMountainsNaturalPreserve
The Bull Run Mountains are the easternmost mountains in Virginia. Virginia Outdoors Foundation - Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve is approximately 2,350 acres that serve as a living laboratory that sits in the backyard of our nation’s capital. The preserve contains 10 different plant community types and a plethora of regionally uncommon and threatened plant and animal species. In 2002, this land was dedicated by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation as a natural area preserve to protect the unique ecosystems found here. As the owner and manager of the preserve, the Virginia Outdoors Foundation is committed to protecting the special ecosystem found here and sharing it with the public through managed access.

Follow us on Social Media!
iNaturalist: Preserve Manager Joe Villari (@jvillari)
Instagram: @bullrunmountains
Facebook: Virginia Outdoors Foundation (Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve)
Our website: VOF RESERVES: Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve
Meetup Events: Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve Guided Hikes Group

Publicado el julio 19, 2022 01:22 MAÑANA por mjwcarr mjwcarr


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