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A horned beetle which fights

Nature volume 274, pages 583584 (10 August 1978) | Download Citation



HORNS, and other often elaborate forms of prothoracic and cephalic armature, are a well known feature of male and occasionally female beetles in the family Scarabaeidae (Coleoptera)1. Many of these, including rhinoceros beetles (Dynastinae) and dung beetles (Scarabaeinae, Geotrupinae), have been studied in detail, but the function of the horns is still the subject of dispute2. The idea that in certain circumstances it would be an advantage for male insects to fight for the possession of a female or a breeding site, and that horns and similar appendages have evolved as weapons, has recently been put forward by Hamilton3. The male of the geotrupine Typhoeus typhoeus (L.) is well armed in this way (Fig. 1), and the observations that I report here show for the first time in a burrowing beetle, not only that the horns are used for fighting between males, but that they are specifically designed for the purpose.

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  1. 1.

    Horned Beetles (Junk, The Hague, 1951).

  2. 2.

    & Fol. Ent. Mexic. 12–14, 1–312 (1966).

  3. 3.

    Proc. R. Ent. Soc. Symp. No. 9 (in the press).

  4. 4.

    More Beetles, 72–171 (trans. A. T. de Mattos) (Hodder and Stoughton, London, 1922).

  5. 5.

    Proc. South Lond. Ent. Soc. 1916–17; 18–22 (1917).

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  1. Imperial College Field Station, Silwood Park, Ascot, Berkshire, UK

    • T. J. PALMER


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