Monthly Archives: February 2015

Friday Fellow: Red flour beetle

by Piter Kehoma Boll

As beetles are the most rich group of organisms in the world, it is normal to select many of them as Friday Fellows. Today I’ll present you the most widespread species, the red flour beetle (Tribolium castaneum).

A red flour beetle. Photo by Eric Day.

A red flour beetle. Photo by Eric Day.

Measuring 3 to 5 mm as adults, these small insects are a main pest of stored food, especially grains, and have been associated with humans for thousands of years. They are more common in tropical habitats, being replaced in temperate regions by a very similar species, the confused flour beetle (Tribolium confusum).

Despite having fuctional wings, the red flour beetle rarely flies, only using this ability to find new food sources when starving. As a consequence, it has become a model organism for laboratory studies, especially for studies related to development and reproductive strategies.

Most populations of the red flour beetle have a very low genetic diversity and, as a result, most of the offspring suffers from inbreeding problems. In order to bypass this problem, females from such populations are highly likely to be polyandrous, i.e., mate with many males during their lifetime, as this increases the chances that at least some eggs will be fertilized by suitable sperm.

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References:

Brown, S. J.; Shippy, T. D.; Miller, S.; Bolognesi, R.; Beeman, R. W.; Lorenzen, M. D.; Bucher, G.; Wimmer, E. A.; Klingler, M. 2009. The red flour beetle, Tribolium castaneum (Coleoptera): a model for studies of development and pest biology. Cold Spring Harbor Protocols. doi: 10.1101/pdb.emo126

Dawson, P. S. 1977. Life history strategy and evolutionary history of Tribolium flour beetles. Evolution, 31(1): 226–229.

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Filed under Entomology, Friday Fellow