Australian Biological Resources Study

Australian Faunal Directory


Regional Maps

Family CARABIDAE Latreille, 1802

Compiler and date details

August 2013 - ABRS, with data from M. Baehr (2012).

2012 - Tom Weir, CSIRO Ecosystem Sciences

2007 - Updated by ABRS, with extensive input from Martin Baehr

1999 - Updated by Andrew A. Calder, CSIRO Entomology, Canberra, Australia

1987 - B.P. Moore, T.A. Weir & J.E. Pyke


This is one of the largest families of Coleoptera and the dominant one of the suborder Adephaga. As constituted here (i.e. including Paussidae and Cicindelidae), it includes some 1 500 genera and about 30 000 described species distributed worldwide. The Australian fauna includes 299 of these genera and about 2690 described and valid species with at least some representatives of most of the major tribes. Older elements of essentially southern origin have frequently radiated and adapted widely during the isolation of the continent, whereas many of the tropical forms represent relatively recent intrusions of Oriental fauna from the north. Thus, the Australian Broscini, Psydritae and Pseudomorphinae are exceptionally well developed, but the Carabitae, Callistini and, particularly, the Brachininae are poorly represented here.

Carabid taxonomy has been extensively studied over a period of almost 200 years and the basic classification is now well established. The evolution of this classification and its current position have been well documented in an historical review by Ball (1979). Consensus has not yet been attained concerning the precise limits of the Carabidae and whether or not such fringe groups as Trachypachidae, Cicindelidae, Paussidae and Brachinidae should be included. Neither is there widespread agreement concerning the need for supratribal categories in carabid classification. These divergences of opinion evidently reflect, on the one hand, a general desire that the ultimate system should have a sound evolutionary basis and, on the other, the current inadequacy of our understanding of the early phylogeny of the Adephaga which, of necessity, is based almost entirely on the comparative morphology of extant forms.

The catalogue of Moore et al. (1987) was based upon a system devised and further developed by Kryzhanovskij (1976), but with minor changes to accommodate the authors' understanding of the Australian fauna. Only minimal use was made of categories above the genus, but sufficient higher structure was included to enable users to locate readily groups of special interest.

Of some fifty papers published over the period 1888–1933 and was extended by B.P. Moore in over thirty papers between 1960 and 1987. Since the publication of Moore et al. 1(1987), a considerable volume of work has been published, mostly by Baehr who has published over 80 papers that include Australian carabids (thesde can be accessed by going to teh "Bibliography" tab for this family).

Carabids are for the most part terrestrial throughout their life cycles, a fact reflected in their vernacular name "ground beetles". Significant numbers of species, particularly in tropical faunas, are planticoles or arboricoles as adults and, less commonly, also as larvae. In some groups, notably the Scarititae, the adult fore tibiae are dentate and the beetles have fossorial habits; these are particularly well represented in arid regions, such as central Australia, where the larvae remain entirely subterranean. Other specialist groups with cryptic habits include the minute interstitial species of Bembidiini-Anillina and the cavernicoles (mostly Trechitae). Many of both of these groups are completely blind.

Adult carabids are well provided with chemical means of defence. All species, so far as is known, possess homologous paired pygidial glands and associated reservoirs that discharge repellent secretions through orifices on each side of the anus. Chemical composition of these secretions is very diverse and provides information of phylogenetic value (Moore 1979). In general, a preformed mixture of chemicals is stored and ejected, but in the bombardier beetles (Paussinae and Brachininae) the components react with an enzyme lining a second chamber and are forcibly ejected by the heat of reaction. The demonstration of such a sophisticated mechanism in two groups that were long held to be widely separated phylogenetically, has led to re-appraisal of their relationship.

Chromosome studies (Serrano 1981) have shown carabid karyotypes to be exceptionally variable, with diploid numbers ranging from 8 to 69, the latter being the highest known in the Coleoptera. The component most frequently encountered is 37 (2n = 36 + X) and this is assumed to represent the ancestral condition. Numerous augmentations and reductions have evidently occurred during evolution of the group and the character may prove less valuable in phylogenetic analyses than was at one time anticipated.

Wing development in carabids has been well studied. In general those species that are dependent upon scattered or transient habitats have retained their hindwings but others have become wing-dimorphic (or polymorphic) with only a proportion of flying individuals. Many specialist species are flightless and virtually apterous, with the elytra permanently cemented together. Such divergences, together with the usually sizeable faunas of even restricted areas and the well developed lower taxonomy, have rendered carabids excellent material for zoogeographical studies. Much use has been made of them in this field, notably by Lindroth (1945–1949, 1972) for Northern Hemisphere faunas and by Darlington (1961, 1965, 1971) for the Australian region.

Adult carabids are mostly general predators, but more specialized feeding habits are characteristic of certain groups (e.g. Cychrini feeding on land molluscs, certain troglobitic Trechini on eggs of cave crickets and certain Lebiini on chrysomelid or erotylid larvae). Many Harpalini have secondarily become largely or entirely phytophagous and females of some specialized Ditomina (a non-Australian group) actively provision their larvae with freshly collected seed (Brandmayr 1974). Cases of maternal solicitude for caches of eggs or young larvae are also known from certain predacious Pterostichini, both in Australia and overseas.

Most carabid larvae are also active general predators, but those of the Cicindelinae and of certain Pseudomorphinae are adapted to living in a vertical burrow, to which they are anchored by hooks on their dorsal surface. In species that have secondarily become ectoparasitic on egg-pods or pupae of other insects (e.g. Brachininae, Lebia) or have exploited the social colonies of ants (e.g. Paussinae, some Pseudomorphinae) or termites (e.g. Parachlaeniina, Orthogonini), the larvae become physogastric and degenerate, particularly in the later instars.

The taxonomy of carabid larvae, although not nearly as well developed as that of the adults, promises a most useful alternative insight into the phylogeny of the family. This work has been well summarized by van Emden (1942) for world tribes and genera and by Thompson (1979) for the Nearctic tribes. Comparatively few Australian species are known as larvae, but those described in recent years by one of the present authors (Moore 1964, 1966a, 1966b, 1974) have also added to the tally of known larval tribes.

Integrated studies of general carabid biology and ecology have been conducted largely in the Northern Hemisphere, where Lindroth's pioneer work (Lindroth 1945–1949) has been extended by others, especially Thiele (1977), who has provided an excellent general account. The Proceedings of the First International Symposium of Carabidology, held at Washington in 1976 and subsequently published (Erwin et al. 1979) contains a wealth of information on most aspects of this subject. By contrast, knowledge of the general biology (and even of the distribution) of Australian carabids is still fragmentary and much of the information given in this catalogue is drawn from unpublished personal experience of one of the authors (B.P.M.) or is derived by extrapolation from known generic trends.


Excluded Taxa


Carabidae: Anomotarus stigmula (Chaudoir, 1852) [Baehr pers comm. (2009)]

Carabidae: Catascopus smaragdulus Dejean, 1825 [Baehr pers comm. (2009)]

CARABIDAE: Loxandrus LeConte, 1853 [restricted to North America as a subgenus of Oxycrepis Reiche, 1843] — Will, K. 2020. Phylogeny and classification of the genus-group taxa of Loxandrina (Coleoptera, Carabidae, Abacetini). Deutsche Entomologische Zeitschrift 67(2): 151–182 [168, S1]


General References

Ball, G.E. 1979. Conspectus of carabid classification: history, holomorphology, and higher taxa. pp. 63–111 in Erwin, T.L.,Ball, G.E., Whitehead, D.R. & Halpern, A.L. (eds) (1979). Carabid Beetles: Their Evolution, Natural History, and Classification. The Hague : W. Junk.

Brandmayr, P. 1974. Le cure parentali di Carterus (Sabienus) calydonius Rossi (Coleoptera Carabidae). Atti della Accademia delle Scienze di Torino 108: 811-818

Darlington, P.J. Jr 1961. Australian carabid beetles V. Transition of wet forest faunas from New Guinea to Tasmania. Psyche (Cambridge) 68: 1-24

Darlington, P.J. Jr 1965. Biogeography of the Southern End of the World. Massachusettes : Cambridge, Harvard Univ. Press x 236 pp. [Date published 31-Dec-65]

Darlington, P.J. Jr 1968. The carabid beetles of New Guinea Part III. Harpalinae (continued): Perigonini to Pseudomorphini. Bulletin of the Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard 137: 1-253

Darlington, P.J. Jr 1971. The carabid beetles of New Guinea. Part IV. General considerations; analysis and history of fauna; taxonomic supplement. Bulletin of the Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard 142: 129-337

Emden, F.I. van 1942. A key to the genera of larval Carabidae. Transactions of the Royal Entomological Society of London 92: 1-99

Erwin, T.L., Ball, G.E., Whitehead, D.R. & Halpern, A.L. (eds) 1979. Carabid beetles: Their evolution, natural history, and classification. The Hague : W. Junk vii 635 pp.

Kryzhanovskiy, O.L. 1976. An attempt at a revised classification of the family Carabidae (Coleoptera). Entomological Review. Washington 55: 56-64

Lindroth, C.H. 1945. Die fennoskandischen Carabidae. Einetiergeographische Studie. I–III. Göteborgs Kungliga Vetenskaps och Vitterhets Samhälles Handlingar B 4(3): 1-911 (-1949)

Lindroth, C.H. 1972. Changes in the Fennoscandinavian ground-beetle fauna (Coleoptera, Carabidae) during the twentieth century. Annales Zoologici Fennici 9: 49-64

Moore, B.P. 1964. Australian larval Carabidae of the subfamilies Broscinae, Psydrinae and Pseudomorphinae (Coleoptera). Pacific Insects 6: 242-246

Moore, B.P. 1966a. The larva of Pamborus (Coleoptera: Carabidae) and its systematic position. Proceedings of the Royal Entomological Society of London B 35(1): 1-4

Moore, B.P. 1966b. Australian larval Carabidae of the subfamilies Harpalinae, Licininae, Odacanthinae and Pentagonicinae (Coleoptera). Proceedings of the Linnean Society of New South Wales 90: 157-163

Moore, B.P. 1974. The larval habits of two species of Sphallomorpha Westwood (Coleoptera: Carabidae: Pseudomorphinae). Journal of the Australian Entomological Society 13: 179-183

Moore, B.P. 1979. Chemical defense in Carabids and its bearing on phylogeny. pp. 193-203 in Erwin, T.L., Ball, G.E., Whitehead, D.R. & Halpern, A.L. (eds). Carabid beetles: Their evolution, natural history, and classification. The Hague : W. Junk vii 635 pp.

Serrano, J. 1981. Chromosome numbers and karyotypic evolution ofCaraboidea. Genetica 55: 51-60

Thiele, H.U. 1977. Carabid beetles in their environments:a study on habitat selection by adaptations in physiology and behavior. Berlin : Springer 369 pp.

Thompson, R.G. 1979. Larvae of North American Carabidae with a key to the tribes. pp. 209–291 in Erwin, T.L., Ball, G.E.,Whitehead, D.R. & Halpern, A.L. (eds) Carabid Beetles: Their Evolution, Natural History, and Classification. The Hague : W. Junk.


History of changes

Note that this list may be incomplete for dates prior to September 2013.
Published As part of group Action Date Action Type Compiler(s)
16-Jun-2022 CARABIDAE Latreille, 1802 16-Jun-2022 MODIFIED
04-Aug-2021 CARABIDAE Latreille, 1802 21-Jan-2022 MODIFIED
24-Dec-2020 CARABIDAE Latreille, 1802 16-Jun-2022 MODIFIED
27-Nov-2020 ADEPHAGA 16-Jun-2022 MODIFIED Max Beatson (AM)
05-Apr-2019 CARABIDAE Latreille, 1802 16-Jun-2022 MODIFIED
13-Aug-2013 16-Jun-2022 MODIFIED
19-Jul-2012 16-Jun-2022 MODIFIED
12-Feb-2010 (import)