Acylophorus pratensis, copyright Richard Migneault.

Belongs within: Staphylininae.
Contains: Amblyopinina, Cyrtoquediina, Indoquedius, Quedius, Xanthopygina, Philonthina, Staphylinina.

The Staphylinini are a cosmopolitan group of relatively large staphylinid beetles, including the rove beetles that are the most familiar members of the family. Representatives of the Staphylinini have antennae inserted closer to the eyes than to each other, a well developed apical maxillary palpomere, a relatively wide neck (if any), and no separate sclerotised plate anterior to the prosternum (Newton et al. 2001). A major clade within the group has been referred to as the ‘Staphylinini propria’, members of which are often distinguished by a dorsal basal ridge on the head capsule, a complete fusion of the pronotum and prosternum inside the procoxal cavity, and a transverse ridge on the hind coxa (Brunke et al. 2016). Clades outside the Staphylinini propria include the Acylophorina, distinguished by hind tarsi with elongate, simple tarsomeres with a dense lateroapical row of spine-like setae on each tarsomere (Brunke et al. 2016). These and other taxa with a flattened, circular pronotum have historically been included within the Quediina but that taxon in its broad sense has since been recognised as polyphyletic (Brunke et al. 2016).

Rove, if you want to
Published 15 May 2018
Rove beetle Staphylinus erythropterus, copyright James K. Lindsey.

The Staphylinidae, rove beetles and related forms, are an absolutely massive array of insects. In fact, thanks to some relatively recent waves of the redefinition wand, the Staphylinidae is not only the largest recognised family of beetles but the largest family of animals of any kind. It even beats out the Curculionidae weevils that were the previous fore-runners. One might think that such a diverse group of animals would be the subject of extensive attention but that is simply not the case. I’ve commented before that part of the reason for this neglect is that staphylinids are a simply horrid group to work with but they still deserve a better look.

Devil’s coach-horse Ocypus olens in a threat display, from Wildlife Insight. The white blebs visible at the end of the abdomen represent glands producing an unpleasant odour.

The original rove beetles belong to the tribe Staphylinini, a cosmopolitan group with more than 5300 known species and probably many more yet to be described. They are mostly active predators of other arthropods, hence the name ‘rove beetle’ in reference to their roving habits. One particularly large species (up to about three centimetres in length), Ocypus olens, has garnered the moniker of ‘devil’s coach-horse’. Several genera are found in association in ants and a termitophilous genus Sedolinus was recently described from South America (Solodovnikov 2006). The exact nature of its association with its termite hosts remains uncertain though it is worth noting that it shows less marked morphological adaptations than other termitophilous staphylinids. The South American Amblyopinus and closely related genera in South America and Australia are found amongst the fur of rodents and small marsupials. Because they are often attached to their host by the mandibles, they were long believed to be parasites feeding on blood or skin secretions. However, further studies found that they do not bite into the host but instead grip to its fur. And rather than feeding on the host itself, they feed on other, actually parasitic arthropods also present on the host (Ashe & Timm 1987).

Edrabius peruvianus, a member of the Amblyopinus group of mammal associates, copyright Stylianos Chatzimanolis.

The classification of Staphylinini is currently in the progress of going through a major shake-up. Not only were many of the taxa within the tribe previously poorly defined, what definition they had was mostly taken from Holarctic taxa. Species found in other parts of the world had largely been classified by finding what Holarctic taxon they most resembled, at least superficially, slotting them therein and then jumping on them until they could be made to fit. A prime example of this awkwardness revolves around the genus Quedius, to which species have been assigned from around the world. Molecular phylogenetic studies have found that a cosmopolitan Quedius represents a polyphyletic grouping (Brunke et al. 2016). Southern Hemisphere taxa assigned to Quedius or believed closely related are not only not immediate relatives of the true European Quedius, but they have been assigned to entirely distinct subtribes representing strongly divergent lineages in the Staphylinini.

Systematics of Staphylinini
Staphylinini [Quediini]
| i. s.: ValdiviodesBC16
| AlesiellaBC16
| QuediomacrusBC16
| LoniaBC16
| QuelaestrygonBC16
| Strouhalium gracilicorneBC16
`--+--+--Holisus Erichson 1839LC20, NT01 [incl. Hyptioma Casey 1906NT01; Hyptiomina]
| `--Atanygnathus Jacobson 1909NT01 (see below for synonymy)
| `--A. acuminatusBC16
`--+--Antimerus punctipennisBC16
|--+--Afroquedius sexpunctatusBC16
| `--AmblyopininaBC16
`--+--+--Erichsonius Fauvel 1874NT01 (see below for synonymy)
| | |--E. nanusBC16
| | `--E. patellaN90
| `--AcylophorinaBC16
| | i. s.: Australotarsius grandisBC16
| | AcylohsellusBC16
| | Stevensia Cameron 1932BC16, EH19
| | `--S. longipennisBC16
| |--Hemiquedius Casey 1915BC16, NT01
| | `--H. ferox (LeConte 1878)NT01
| `--+--Anaquedius Casey 1915BC16, NT01
| | `--A. vernix (LeConte 1878)NT01
| `--+--+--AnchocerusBC16
| | `--Paratolmerus siamensisBC16
| `--Acylophorus Nordmann 1837BC16, NT01 (see below for synonymy)
| |--A. capensisBC16
| |--A. indignus Blackb. 1887M96
| |--A. pratensisBC16
| `--A. wagenschieberiBC16
| |--QuediusBC16
| |--PseudorientisBC16
| |--VelleiopsisBC16
| `--Beeria Hatch 1957NT01
| `--B. nematocera (Casey 1915) [incl. B. punctata Hatch 1957]NT01
`--Staphylinini propriaBC16
| i. s.: EucibdelusBC16
| IomaBC16
| WeiserianumBC16
| HaematodesBC16
| EuristusBC16
| EmusLC20
| |--E. albertisiiM86
| |--E. griseosericansB14
| `--E. hirtus (Linnaeus 1758)B14
|--+--Philothalpus [Philothalpina]BC16
| | |--P. bilobusBC16
| | `--P. faliniBC16
| `--XanthopyginaBC16
| `--Algon [Algonina]BC16
| |--A. hollowayaeBC16
| |--A. oculatusBC16
| `--A. spatiosusLC20
|--+--Misantlius gebieniBC16
| `--Hesperosoma pederseniBC16
`--+--Tympanophorus Nordmann 1837BC16, NT01
| |--T. concolor Sharp 1884NT01
| `--T. puncticollis Erichson 1840 (see below for synonymy)NT01
`--Pammegus ruficollisBC16

Acylophorus Nordmann 1837BC16, NT01 [incl. Amacylophorus Smetana 1971NT01, Palpacylophorus Smetana 1971NT01]

Atanygnathus Jacobson 1909NT01 [incl. Tanygnathinus Reitter 1909NT01, Tanygnathus Erichson 1839 non Wagler 1832NT01; TanygnathininaBC16]

Erichsonius Fauvel 1874NT01 [incl. Actobius Fauvel 1876NT01, Sectophilonthus Tottenham 1949NT01; ErichsoniinaBC16]

Tympanophorus puncticollis Erichson 1840 [incl. Xanthopygus borealis Hatch 1957, T. borealis]NT01

*Type species of generic name indicated


Ashe, J. S., & R. M. Timm. 1987. Predation by and activity patterns of ‘parasitic’ beetles of the genus Amblyopinus (Coleoptera: Staphylinidae). Journal of Zoology 212: 429–437.

[B14] Bouchard, P. (ed.) 2014. The Book of Beetles: A lifesize guide to six hundred of nature’s gems. Ivy Press: Lewes (United Kingdom).

[BC16] Brunke, A. J., S. Chatzimanolis, H. Schillhammer & A. Solodovnikov. 2016. Early evolution of the hyperdiverse rove beetle tribe Staphylinini (Coleoptera: Staphylinidae: Staphylininae) and a revision of its higher classification. Cladistics 32 (4): 427–451.

[EH19] Énay, R., & M. K. Howarth. 2019. Part L, revised, volume 3B, chapter 7: Systematic descriptions of the Perisphinctoidea. Treatise Online 120: 1–184.

[LC20] Lü, L., C.-Y. Cai, X. Zhang, A. F. Newton, M. K. Thayer & H.-Z. Zhou. 2020. Linking evolutionary mode to palaeoclimate change reveals rapid radiations of staphylinoid beetles in low-energy conditions. Current Zoology 66 (4): 435–444.

[M86] Macleay, W. 1886. The insects of the Fly River, New Guinea, “Coleoptera”. Proceedings of the Linnean Society of New South Wales, series 2, 1 (1): 136–157.

[M96] Masters, G. 1896. Catalogue of the described Coleoptera of Australia. Supplement, part II. Dytiscidae, Gyrinidae, Hydrophyllidae, Staphylinidae, Pselaphidae, Paussidae, Silphidae, Scaphididae, Histeridae, Phalacridae, Nitidulidae, Trogositidae, Colydiidae, Cucujidae, Cryptophagidae, Lathridiidae, Mycetophagidae, Dermestidae, Byrrhidae, Parnidae, Heteroceridae. Proceedings of the Linnean Society of New South Wales 21 (Suppl.): 695–754.

[N90] Newton, A. F., Jr. 1990. Insecta: Coleoptera Staphylinidae adults and larvae. In: Dindal, D. L. (ed.) Soil Biology Guide pp. 1137–1174. John Wiley & Sones: New York.

[NT01] Newton, A. F., M. K. Thayer, J. S. Ashe & D. S. Chandler. 2001. Staphylinidae Latreille, 1802. In: Arnett, R. H., Jr & M. C. Thomas (eds) American Beetles vol. 1. Archostemata, Myxophaga, Adephaga, Polyphaga: Staphyliniformia pp. 272–418. CRC Press: Boca Raton.

Solodovnikov, A. 2006. Adult and larval descriptions of a new termitophilous genus of the tribe Staphylinini with two species from South America (Coleoptera: Staphylinidae). Proceedings of the Russian Entomological Society, St. Petersburg 77: 274–283.

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