• Omar K. Ismail Department of Biology, Chemistry and Environmental Science, College of Arts and Sciences, American University of Sharjah, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates
  • Aaron Bartholomew Department of Biology, Chemistry and Environmental Science, College of Arts and Sciences, American University of Sharjah, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates
Keywords: Desert, Habitat choice, Refuge, Shrubs, Thermoregulation, United Arab Emirates


   A square experimental arena with vegetation on one interior side was deployed in a Sharjah, United Arab Emirates desert. Individual darkling beetles (Coleoptera, Tenebrionidae) Akis subtricostata Redtenbacher, 1850 and Trachyderma philistina Reiche and Saulcy, 1857 were placed inside the arena at temperatures ranging between 27 - 49°C. Whether they chose the vegetated side of the arena or not was recorded, as well as how long it took for them to reach the vegetated side, if they chose it. Both species preferred the vegetated side at all temperatures, and the chance of them choosing the vegetated side increased significantly with increasing temperature (logistic regression, p = 0.0096 and p = 0.0003 for T. philistina and A. subtricostata, respectively). T.philistina and A. subtricostata always chose the vegetated side at temperatures above 31°and 44°C, respectively. Individual beetles that chose the vegetated side moved quickly and directly to it at temperatures above 30°C. Below 30°C, however, beetles tended to move slower and take more pauses within the arena. Time to reach the vegetated side declined significantly with increasing temperature (least-squares regression, p < 0.00005 for both species). A few individuals of both species died at the highest temperatures (48 - 49°C).


Download data is not yet available.


Al Dhaheri, S., Javed, S., Alzahlawi, N., Binkulaib, R., Cowie, W., Grandcourt, E. and Kabshawi, M. 2017. Abu Dhabi Emirate habitat classification and protection guideline. Environment Agency Abu-Dhabi (EAD), 76 pp.

Ayal, Y. 2007. Trophic structure and the role of predation in shaping hot desert communities. Journal of Arid Environments, 68: 171-187.

Ayal, Y. and Merkl, O. 1994. Spatial and temporal distribution of tenebrionid species (Coleoptera) in the Negev Highlands, Israel. Journal of Arid Environments, 27: 347-361.

Bartholomew, A. and El Moghrabi, J. 2018. Seasonal preference of darkling beetles (Tenebrionidae) for shrub vegetation due to high temperatures, not predation or food availability. Journal of Arid Environments, 156: 34-40.

Cloudsley-Thompson, J. 2001. Thermal and water relations of desert beetles. Naturwissenschaften, 88: 447-460.

Crawford, C. 1988. Nutrition and habitat selection in desert detritivores. Journal of Arid Environments, 14: 111-121.

De los Santos, A., De Nicolas, J. and Ferrer, F. 2002. Habitat selection and assemblage structure of darkling beetles (Col. Tenebrionidae) along environmental gradients on the Island of Tenerife (Canary Islands). Journal of Arid Environments, 52: 63-85.

Edney, E. 1971. The body temperature of tenebrionid beetles in the Namib Desert of Southern Africa. Journal of Experimental Biology, 55: 253–272.

Fattorini, S. 2000. Dispersal, vicariance and refuges in the Anatolian Pimeliinae (Coleoptera, Tenebrionidae): remarks on some biogeographical tenets. Biogeographia–The Journal of Integrative Biogeography, 21: 355-398.

Kaplin, V. 2019. Distribution, life forms and ecological peculiarities of darkling beetles (Coleoptera, Tenebrionidae) of the Eastern Kara Kum. Entomological Review, 99:987-1004.

Krasnov, B., Ward, D. and Shenbrot, G. 1996. Body size and leg length variation in several species of darkling beetles (Coleoptera: Tenebrionidae) along a rainfall and altitudinal gradient in the Negev Desert (Israel). Journal of Arid Environments, 34: 477-89.

Liu, J., Li, F., Liu, C. and Liu, Q. 2012. Influences of shrub vegetation on distribution and diversity of a ground beetle community in a Gobi Desert ecosystem. Biodiversity and Conservation, 21: 2601-2619.

Lu, X., Li, J., Yang, J., Liu, X. and Ma, J. 2014. De novo transcriptome of the desert beetle Microdera punctipennis (Coleoptera: Tenebrionidae) using illumina RNA-seq technology. Molecular Biology Reports, 41: 7293-7303.

Maeno, K., Nakamura, S. and Babah, M. 2014. Nocturnal and sheltering behaviours of the desert darkling beetle, Pimelia senegalensis (Coleoptera: Tenebrionidae), in the Sahara Desert. African Entomology, 22: 499-504.

Mazía, C., Chaneton, E. and Kitzberger T. 2006. Small-scale habitat use and assemblage structure of ground-dwelling beetles in a Patagonian shrub steppe. Journal of Arid Environments, 67: 177-194.

Marsh, A. 1985. Thermal responses and temperature tolerance in a diurnal desert ant, Ocymyrmex barbiger. Physiological Zoology, 58: 629-636.

Parmenter, R., Parmenter, C. and Cheney, C. 1989 a. Factors influencing microhabitat partitioning among coexisting species of arid-land darkling beetles (Tenebrionidae): behavioral responses to vegetation architecture. The Southwestern Naturalist, 34: 319-329.

Parmenter, R., Parmenter, C. and Cheney, C. 1989 b. Factors influencing microhabitat partitioning in arid-land darkling beetles (Tenebrionidae): temperature and water conservation. Journal of Arid Environments, 17: 57-67.

Polis, G. 1991. Complex trophic interactions in deserts: an empirical critique of food-web theory. The American Naturalist, 138: 123-155.

Qiu, L., Mao, X., Hou, F. and Ma, J. 2013. A novel function–thermal protective properties of an antifreeze protein from the summer desert beetle Microdera punctipennis. Cryobiology, 66: 60-68.

Roberts, C., Seely, M., Ward, D., Mitchell, D. and Campbell, J. 1991. Body temperatures of Namib Desert tenebrionid beetles: their relationship in laboratory and field. Physiological Entomology, 16: 463-475.

Saji, A. and Al Dhaheri, S. 2011. Ecological distribution and seasonality of darkling beetles (Coleoptera: Tenebrionidae) in the Western Region of Abu Dhabi, UAE. Middle East Journal of Scientific Research, 9: 704-710.

Schawaller, W. 2010. Order Coleoptera, family Tenebrionidae (with the exception of the subfamily Alleculinae). In: van Harten, A. (ed.) Arthropod Fauna of the UAE, Volume 3, Dar Al Ummah, United Arab Emirates, p 253 -278.

Shelef, O. and Groner, E. 2011. Linking landscape and species: effect of shrubs on patch preference of beetles in arid and semi-arid ecosystems. Journal of Arid Environments, 75: 960-967.

Stapp, P. 1997. Microhabitat use and community structure of darkling beetles (Coleoptera: Tenebrionidae) in shortgrass prairie: effects of season shrub and soil type. American Midland Naturalist, 137: 298-311.

Ward, D. and Seely, M. 1996 a. Adaptation and constraint in the evolution of the physiology and behavior of the Namib Desert tenebrionid beetle genus Onymacris. Evolution, 50: 1231-1240.

Ward, D. and Seely, M. 1996 b. Behavioral thermoregulation of six Namib Desert tenebrionid beetle species (Coleoptera). Annals of the Entomological Society of America, 89: 442-451.

Whicker, A. and Tracy, C. 1987. Tenebrionid beetles in the shortgrass prairie: daily and seasonal patterns of activity and temperature. Ecological Entomology, 12: 97-108.