Mini-review of the Cicindelidia abdominalis species-group

Now that I have seen and photographed in the field all four species of the Cicindelidia abdominalis species-group, I thought some might find it useful to have a summary of each species with comparisons, photographs and a key to distinguish the four species. The key presented below is based on that found in Brzoska et al. (2011), which itself is a modification of couplet 8 in the key to the species of Common Tiger Beetles (Cicindela) found in Pearson et al. (2006). Following the key are comparative notes for each species that discuss key characters and give specific information about their distribution, along with field photographs to illustrate the distinguishing characters.

Key to the Cicindelidia abdominalis species-group

1. Elytral surface covered with deep punctures, pronotum with dense decumbent setae (old specimens may have the setae rubbed off and the presence of setal punctures should be checked), usually with 6 labral setae . . . . . 2

— Elytral surface (excluding presutural foveae) relatively smooth, with shallow punctures, pronotum glabrous or with fine pronotal setae, usually with 4 pronotal setae . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3

2(1) Elytra black, with a post median marginal spot, usually with a vestige of a middle band, restricted to peninsular FL north of Miami-Dade County . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .C. scabrosa (Schaupp)

— Elytra green or bronze-green, rarely with a post median marginal spot, and without evidence of a middle band, restricted to Miami-Dade County, FL . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .C. floridana (Cartwright)

3(1) Pronotum, and mes- and metepisternum glabrous, restricted to Polk and Highlands Counties, FL . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . C. highlandensis (Choate)

— Pronotum with fine decumbent setae, and mes- and metepisternum with decumbent setae, widespread across southeastern U.S. Coastal Plain . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . C . abdominalis (Fabricius)

Cicindelidia scabrosa—Scabrous Tiger Beetle

This species is largely limited to oak/pine scrub habitats in peninsular Florida north of Miami-Dade Co., although it does just sneak north of the border into souutheastern Georgia. From Cicindelidia abdominalis and C. highlandensis it can be distinguished by the distinctly punctured rather than smooth elytra and the presence of dense white setae along the lateral margins of the pronotum. From C. floridana it can be distinguished by the black rather than coppery-green coloration and the usual presence of a post-median spot along the lateral elytral margins. More information about this species can be found in my post, “The (almost) Florida-endemic Cicindelidia scabrosa.”

Cicindelidia scabrosa
Cicindelidia scabrosa | Levy Co., Florida

Cicindelidia floridana—Miami Tiger Beetle

Only recently rediscovered after being thought extinct for nearly a century, this species is most similar to C. scabrosa but is restricted to pine rockland habitat in Miami-Dade Co. where C. scabrosa does not occur. Like that species it exhibits the distinctly punctured rather than smooth elytra and dense white setae along the lateral margins of the pronotum that distinguish both species from C. abdominalis and C. highlandensis; however, its coloration is brilliant coppery green rather than black like C. scabrosa, especially in living individuals seen in the wild. More information about this species can be found in my posts, “Rediscovery of Cicindela scabrosa floridana” and “Photographing the Newly Rediscovered Cicindelidia floridana.”

Cicindelidia floridana
Cicindelidia floridana | Miami-Dade Co., Florida

Cicindelidia highlandensis—Highlands Tiger Beetle

This species is most similar to C. abdominalis, sharing with it the smooth elytra and glabrous pronotum that distinguish both species from C. scabrosa and C. floridana. Unlike that more widespread species, however, C. highlandensis is found only along a narrow band of sand scrub habitats on the Lake Wales Ridge in Polk and Highland Cos., central Florida, and it can be distinguished from it by the lack of white setae on the pronotum and mes- and metepisterna (lateral portions of the thorax above the middle and hind legs). More information about this species can be found in my post, “Highlands Tiger Beetle.”

Cicindelidia highlandensis
Cicindelidia highlandensis | Polk Co., Florida

Cicindelidia abdominalis—Eastern Pine Barrens Tiger Beetle

This is the only relatively broadly distributed species of the group, occurring in a variety of dry sand habitats along the southeastern U.S. Coastal Plain from New Jersey west to Louisiana and south into the northern half of Florida. Aside from its non-endemic distribution, this species can be distinguished from C. scabrosa and C. floridana by its smooth elytra and lack of dense white setae along the lateral pronotal margin, and from it’s most similar relative C. highlandensis by the presence of fine, decumbent (lying down) setae on the pronotum and on the mes- and metepisterna above the middle and hind legs. More information about this species can be found in my post, “Tiger Beetles Agree—It’s Hot in Florida!.”

Cicindelidia abdominalis
Cicindelidia abdominalis | Withlacoochee Co., Florida

REFERENCES:

Brzoska, D., C. B. Knisley, and J. Slotten. 2011. Rediscovery of Cicindela scabrosa floridana Cartwright (Coleoptera: Cicindelidae) and its elevation to species level. Insecta Mundi 0162:1–7.

Pearson, D. L., C. B. Knisley and C. J. Kazilek. 2006. A Field Guide to the Tiger Beetles of the United States and Canada. Oxford University Press, New York, 227 pp.

Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2011

About Ted C. MacRae

Ted C. MacRae is a research entomologist by vocation and beetle taxonomist by avocation. Areas of expertise in the latter include worldwide jewel beetles (Buprestidae) and North American longhorned beetles (Cerambycidae). More recent work has focused on North American tiger beetles (Cicindelidae) and their distribution, ecology, and conservation.
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8 Responses to Mini-review of the Cicindelidia abdominalis species-group

  1. Henry (Rob) Robison says:

    Enjoyed reading this post and seeing your great photos! Keep up your good work.

  2. James C. Trager says:

    A photo-illustrated field guide in which one can actually see the characters described in the text – nice!

  3. Swellbugs says:

    Ted, this is high quality and very helpful. Well done!

  4. Ted, I love seeing “traditional” publication material being shared freely and openly in non-traditional formats like this! Between this and your ant key, you’re making insect ID’s a snap!🙂

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