Termitusina

Termitusodes lativentris, from Seevers (1957).

Belongs within: Aleocharinae.

The Termitusina are a group of limuloid staphylinid beetles found living in the Ethiopian region in association with termites of the genera Cubitermes, Thoracotermes and Pericapritermes.

Life with termites
Published 21 December 2010

The Staphylinidae are one of the largest (over 46,000 species) and most easily recognisable of the commonly accepted beetle ‘families’. Among other things, they can be readily distinguished from other beetles by the reduction of the elytra so that they no longer cover the abdomen, similar to what is seen in the earwigs. The most familiar staphylinids are relatively large predatory species (known as rove beetles or devil’s coach-horses) but the family includes a wide variety of other forms.

The animal rather poorly illustrated at the top of this page is a member of the subtribe Termitusina in the subfamily Aleocharinae. Termitusina are found in tropical Africa where they live within the colonies of certain species of termite. The image doesn’t show the distinguishing features of this group very well, unfortunately, but if you look carefully (and perhaps use a bit of imagination) you may be able to make out the strongly deflexed head and ninth abdominal tergite divided between two elongate halves. Unlike many termite-associated staphylinids, Termitusina of the genera Termitusa and Thoracotusa do not generally exhibit physogastry (a swollen abdomen). Termitusodes, the third genus in the subtribe, differs from the other two genera in this respect, though it still comes nowhere near the level of physogastry found in some termite-associated staphylinids.

I haven’t been able to find out whether the Termitusina are in some way social parasites of their host termites or whether they are finding their food in the nest some other way (such as by scavenging or feeding on fungi) but the association is undoubtedly a close one. Termitusina are, as a rule, host specific (Jacobson & Kistner 1975). Termitusa are found only in nests of the termite genera Cubitermes and Noditermes, Thoracotusa is found with Thoracotermes, and Termitusodes has been found with Cubitermes and Pericapritermes magnificus. Pericapritermes often nest in association with Cubitermes (they may occupy abandoned Cubitermes nests or they may invade the nest while the Cubitermes are still living there) and it seems likely that this association is what allowed Termitusodes to change hosts at some point in its history.

Systematics of Termitusina

Characters (from Seevers 1957): Body-form limuloid. Head strongly deflexed, usually with long axis vertical; small part of vertex visible from above. Pronotum large, shield-like; sides strongly arcuate, converging anteriorly but anterior margin transverse, anterior angles evident. Anterior margin of submentum emarginate. Anterior angles of mentum not produced, apex straight. Abdomen acuminate. Ninth tergite deeply bifid, the two parts elongated as stout processes.

TermitusinaJK75
|--ThoracotusaJK75
| |--T. alzadaeJK75
| |--T. carrissoensisJK75
| `--T. kymraeJK75
|--TermitusodesJK75
| |--T. congolensisJK75
| |--T. lativentrisJK75
| |--T. leleupiJK75
| |--T. mediaJK75
| `--T. summaJK75
`--Termitusa Wasmann 1905 [incl. Glaphyrinus Bernhauer in Bernhauer & Paulian 1942]S57
|--*T. sjoestedti Wasmann 1905S57
|--T. atlanticusJK75
|--T. bandaiJK75
|--T. boultoniJK75
|--T. cameroni Reichensperger 1929S57
|--T. cloveriJK75
|--T. coatoniJK75
|--T. deligneiJK75
|--T. dybasiJK75
|--T. escalerae Fauvel 1906S57
|--T. hexasetaJK75
|--T. hystrix Wasmann 1911S57
|--T. katangensisJK75
|--T. lativentris Seevers 1957S57
|--T. lightningaeJK75
|--T. lujae Wasmann 1911S57
|--T. malawiensisJK75
|--T. minorJK75
|--T. mixasetaJK75
|--T. mundus (Bernhauer in Bernhauer & Paulian 1942) [=*Glaphyrinus mundus, Glaphyrius mirandus ms]S57
|--T. munerisJK75
|--T. pasteelsiJK75
|--T. quadricollis Cameron 1952S57
|--T. reginaJK75
|--T. ruelleiJK75
|--T. sheasbyiJK75
|--T. superhirsutusJK75
|--T. ugandaeJK75
|--T. viegasiJK75
|--T. wasmanniJK75
`--T. williamsiJK75

*Type species of generic name indicated

References

[JK75] Jacobson, H. R., & D. H. Kistner. 1975. Numeric analyses of relationships of genera and species of the subtribe Termitusina (Coleoptera: Staphylinidae). Systematic Zoology 24 (2): 191–198.

[S57] Seevers, C. H. 1957. A monograph on the termitophilous Staphylinidae (Coleoptera). Fieldiana Zoology 40: 1–334.

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