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March 2012 - Chris Reid, Australian Museum, Sydney
The family Chrysomelidae is one of the largest families of organisms. It comprises an estimated 33,000 described species, with possibly another 10,000 undescribed. The family is almost exclusively herbivorous and species are found globally in all terrestrial and freshwater habitats where plants exist. The family occurs throughout Australia, known from approximately 188 genera and 2250 described species.
The composition of the Chrysomelidae has varied considerably over time, as various ad hoc hypotheses of relationship have been applied, together with changing attitudes towards different taxonomic ranks (reviewed by Schmitt 1996). Application of modern systematics, recognising inclusive groups from single ancestors, and an evaluation of relative rank commensurate with other beetle groups, has resulted in break up of the traditional Chrysomelidae into three families: Megalopodidae (q.v.), Orsodacnidae (not Australian) and Chrysomelidae (Kuschel & May 1990; Reid 1995). This relatively new concept of Chrysomelidae includes the traditionally isolated family Bruchidae. A further revision of the family has recognised an additional subfamily, Spilopyrinae (Reid 2000). The Chrysomelidae now comprise 11 subfamilies (Reid 2000), one of which has had a name change for nomenclatural reasons (Staines 2002). The numerous objections to this system are not based on any systematic approach and the classification has been widely adopted (for example in the North American checklist by Riley, Clark & Seeno 2003).
Ten subfamilies occur in Australia. The missing taxon, Lamprosomatinae, comprises small and rare species and, globally, is patchily distributed. Its nearest occurrences are Java and New Caledonia and therefore Lamprosomatinae may possibly be found in the Australian tropics.
The Australian fauna is dominated by four subfamilies: Chrysomelinae with 700 species, Eumolpinae with 500 species, and Galerucinae and Cryptocephalinae with approximately 450 species each. The species of these subfamilies are associated primarily with eucalypts and acacias in the drier forests and woodland that cover much of Australia. However, each of the first three includes a large component of rainforest species, feeding on a great diversity of hosts.
There are no reviews of the entire Australian fauna. The South Australian genera have been described and illustrated (Matthews & Reid 2002), plus all Chrysomelinae genera (Reid 2006), plus portions of other groups (qq.v.).
Almost all types of vascular plants are utilised by Chrysomelidae. Some adult Chrysomelidae feed on pollen (Sagrinae), but the vast majority feed on leaves and flowers of angiosperms. Larval habits are particularly diverse, including: aquatic (Donaciinae), root-feeding (Eumolpinae), stem-galling (Sagrinae), seed-feeding (Bruchinae), leaf-mining (some Cassidinae and Galerucinae), case-bearing (Cryptocephalinae) and external leaf-feeding (Chrysomelinae, Spilopyrinae, some Cassidinae, Criocerinae and Galerucinae).
Kuschel, G. & May, B.M. 1990. Palophaginae, a new subfamily of leaf beetles, feeding as adult and larva on araucarian pollen in Australia (Coleoptera: Megalopodidae). Invertebrate Taxonomy 3(6): 697–719
Monrós, F. 1960. Los generos de Chrysomelidae (Coleoptera). Opera lilloana 3: 5-337, pls 1-3
Reid, C.A.M. 1995. A cladistic analysis of subfamilial relationships in the Chrysomelidae sensu lato (Chrysomeloidea). pp. 559-631 in Pakaluk, J. & Slipinski, S.A. (eds). Biology, Phylogeny and Classification of Coleoptera. Papers celebrating the 80th birthday of Roy A. Crowson. Warszawa : Muzeum i Instytut Zoologii PAN.
Riley, E.G., Clark, S.M. & Seeno, T.N. 2003. Catalog of the Leaf Beetles of America North of Mexico (Coleoptera: Megalopodidae, Orsodacnidae and Chrysomelidae, excluding Bruchinae). Sacramento, CA : The Coleopterists Societry pp. 1-290.
Schmitt, M. 1996. The phylogenetic system of the Chrysomelidae — history of ideas and present state of knowledge. pp. 57-96 in Jolivet, P.H.A. & Cox, M.L. (eds). Chrysomelidae Biology. The classification, phylogeny and genetics. Amsterdam : SPB Academic publishing Vol. 1.
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