The Descent of Man – Day 79 of 151

Necrophorus (from Landois). r. The two rasps. Left-hand figure, part of the rasp highly magnified.

Figure 25: Necrophorus (from Landois).
r. The two rasps.
Left-hand figure, part of the rasp highly magnified.

These organs are situated in widely different positions. In the carrion-beetles (Necrophorus) two parallel rasps (r, Fig. 25) stand on the dorsal surface of the fifth abdominal segment, each rasp (74. Landois, ‘Zeitschrift fur wissenschaft Zoolog.’ B. xvii. 1867, s. 127.) consisting of 126 to 140 fine ribs. These ribs are scraped against the posterior margins of the elytra, a small portion of which projects beyond the general outline. In many Crioceridae, and in Clythra 4-punctata (one of the Chrysomelidae), and in some Tenebrionidae, etc. (75. I am greatly indebted to Mr. G.R. Crotch for having sent me many prepared specimens of various beetles belonging to these three families and to others, as well as for valuable information. He believes that the power of stridulation in the Clythra has not been previously observed. I am also much indebted to Mr. E.W. Janson, for information and specimens. I may add that my son, Mr. F. Darwin, finds that Dermestes murinus stridulates, but he searched in vain for the apparatus. Scolytus has lately been described by Dr. Chapman as a stridulator, in the ‘Entomologist’s Monthly Magazine,’ vol. vi. p. 130.), the rasp is seated on the dorsal apex of the abdomen, on the pygidium or pro-pygidium, and is scraped in the same manner by the elytra. In Heterocerus, which belongs to another family, the rasps are placed on the sides of the first abdominal segment, and are scraped by ridges on the femora. (76. Schiodte, translated, in ‘Annals and Magazine of Natural History,’ vol. xx. 1867, p. 37.) In certain Curculionidae and Carabidae (77. Westring has described (Kroyer, ‘Naturhist. Tidskrift,’ B. ii. 1848-49, p. 334) the stridulating organs in these two, as well as in other families. In the Carabidae I have examined Elaphrus uliginosus and Blethisa multipunctata, sent to me by Mr. Crotch. In Blethisa the transverse ridges on the furrowed border of the abdominal segment do not, as far as I could judge, come into play in scraping the rasps on the elytra.), the parts are completely reversed in position, for the rasps are seated on the inferior surface of the elytra, near their apices, or along their outer margins, and the edges of the abdominal segments serve as the scrapers. In Pelobius Hermanni (one of Dytiscidae or water-beetles) a strong ridge runs parallel and near to the sutural margin of the elytra, and is crossed by ribs, coarse in the middle part, but becoming gradually finer at both ends, especially at the upper end; when this insect is held under water or in the air, a stridulating noise is produced by the extreme horny margin of the abdomen being scraped against the rasps. In a great number of long-horned beetles (Longicornia) the organs are situated quite otherwise, the rasp being on the meso-thorax, which is rubbed against the pro-thorax; Landois counted 238 very fine ribs on the rasp of Cerambyx heros.

Hind-leg of Geotrupes stercorarius (from Landois).  r.  Rasp.  c. Coxa.  f. Femur.  t. Tibia.  tr. Tarsi.

Figure 26: Hind-leg of Geotrupes stercorarius (from Landois).
r. Rasp. c. Coxa. f. Femur. t. Tibia. tr. Tarsi.

Many Lamellicorns have the power of stridulating, and the organs differ greatly in position. Some species stridulate very loudly, so that when Mr. F. Smith caught a Trox sabulosus, a gamekeeper, who stood by, thought he had caught a mouse; but I failed to discover the proper organs in this beetle. In Geotrupes and Typhoeus, a narrow ridge runs obliquely across (r, Fig. 26) the coxa of each hind-leg (having in G. stercorarius 84 ribs), which is scraped by a specially projecting part of one of the abdominal segments. In the nearly allied Copris lunaris, an excessively narrow fine rasp runs along the sutural margin of the elytra, with another short rasp near the basal outer margin; but in some other Coprini the rasp is seated, according to Leconte (78. I am indebted to Mr. Walsh, of Illinois, for having sent me extracts from Leconte’s ‘Introduction to Entomology,’ pp. 101, 143.), on the dorsal surface of the abdomen. In Oryctes it is seated on the pro-pygidium; and, according to the same entomologist, in some other Dynastini, on the under surface of the elytra. Lastly, Westring states that in Omaloplia brunnea the rasp is placed on the pro-sternum, and the scraper on the meta-sternum, the parts thus occupying the under surface of the body, instead of the upper surface as in the Longicorns.

We thus see that in the different coleopterous families the stridulating organs are wonderfully diversified in position, but not much in structure. Within the same family some species are provided with these organs, and others are destitute of them. This diversity is intelligible, if we suppose that originally various beetles made a shuffling or hissing noise by the rubbing together of any hard and rough parts of their bodies, which happened to be in contact; and that from the noise thus produced being in some way useful, the rough surfaces were gradually developed into regular stridulating organs. Some beetles as they move, now produce, either intentionally or unintentionally, a shuffling noise, without possessing any proper organs for the purpose. Mr. Wallace informs me that the Euchirus longimanus (a Lamellicorn, with the anterior legs wonderfully elongated in the male) “makes, whilst moving, a low hissing sound by the protrusion and contraction of the abdomen; and when seized it produces a grating sound by rubbing its hind-legs against the edges of the elytra.” The hissing sound is clearly due to a narrow rasp running along the sutural margin of each elytron; and I could likewise make the grating sound by rubbing the shagreened surface of the femur against the granulated margin of the corresponding elytron; but I could not here detect any proper rasp; nor is it likely that I could have overlooked it in so large an insect. After examining Cychrus, and reading what Westring has written about this beetle, it seems very doubtful whether it possesses any true rasp, though it has the power of emitting a sound.

From the analogy of the Orthoptera and Homoptera, I expected to find the stridulating organs in the Coleoptera differing according to sex; but Landois, who has carefully examined several species, observed no such difference; nor did Westring; nor did Mr. G.R. Crotch in preparing the many specimens which he had the kindness to send me. Any difference in these organs, if slight, would, however, be difficult to detect, on account of their great variability. Thus, in the first pair of specimens of Necrophorus humator and of Pelobius which I examined, the rasp was considerably larger in the male than in the female; but not so with succeeding specimens. In Geotrupes stercorarius the rasp appeared to me thicker, opaquer, and more prominent in three males than in the same number of females; in order, therefore, to discover whether the sexes differed in their power of stridulating, my son, Mr. F. Darwin, collected fifty-seven living specimens, which he separated into two lots, according as they made a greater or lesser noise, when held in the same manner. He then examined all these specimens, and found that the males were very nearly in the same proportion to the females in both the lots. Mr. F. Smith has kept alive numerous specimens of Monoynchus pseudacori (Curculionidae), and is convinced that both sexes stridulate, and apparently in an equal degree.

Nevertheless, the power of stridulating is certainly a sexual character in some few Coleoptera. Mr. Crotch discovered that the males alone of two species of Heliopathes (Tenebrionidae) possess stridulating organs. I examined five males of H. gibbus, and in all these there was a well-developed rasp, partially divided into two, on the dorsal surface of the terminal abdominal segment; whilst in the same number of females there was not even a rudiment of the rasp, the membrane of this segment being transparent, and much thinner than in the male. In H. cribratostriatus the male has a similar rasp, excepting that it is not partially divided into two portions, and the female is completely destitute of this organ; the male in addition has on the apical margins of the elytra, on each side of the suture, three or four short longitudinal ridges, which are crossed by extremely fine ribs, parallel to and resembling those on the abdominal rasp; whether these ridges serve as an independent rasp, or as a scraper for the abdominal rasp, I could not decide: the female exhibits no trace of this latter structure.

Again, in three species of the Lamellicorn genus Oryctes, we have a nearly parallel case. In the females of O. gryphus and nasicornis the ribs on the rasp of the pro-pygidium are less continuous and less distinct than in the males; but the chief difference is that the whole upper surface of this segment, when held in the proper light, is seen to be clothed with hairs, which are absent or are represented by excessively fine down in the males. It should be noticed that in all Coleoptera the effective part of the rasp is destitute of hairs. In O. senegalensis the difference between the sexes is more strongly marked, and this is best seen when the proper abdominal segment is cleaned and viewed as a transparent object. In the female the whole surface is covered with little separate crests, bearing spines; whilst in the male these crests in proceeding towards the apex, become more and more confluent, regular, and naked; so that three-fourths of the segment is covered with extremely fine parallel ribs, which are quite absent in the female. In the females, however, of all three species of Oryctes, a slight grating or stridulating sound is produced, when the abdomen of a softened specimen is pushed backwards and forwards.

In the case of the Heliopathes and Oryctes there can hardly be a doubt that the males stridulate in order to call or to excite the females; but with most beetles the stridulation apparently serves both sexes as a mutual call. Beetles stridulate under various emotions, in the same manner as birds use their voices for many purposes besides singing to their mates. The great Chiasognathus stridulates in anger or defiance; many species do the same from distress or fear, if held so that they cannot escape; by striking the hollow stems of trees in the Canary Islands, Messrs. Wollaston and Crotch were able to discover the presence of beetles belonging to the genus Acalles by their stridulation. Lastly, the male Ateuchus stridulates to encourage the female in her work, and from distress when she is removed. (79. M. P. de la Brulerie, as quoted in ‘Journal of Travel,’ A. Murray, vol. i. 1868, p. 135.) Some naturalists believe that beetles make this noise to frighten away their enemies; but I cannot think that a quadruped or bird, able to devour a large beetle, would be frightened by so slight a sound. The belief that the stridulation serves as a sexual call is supported by the fact that death-ticks (Anobium tessellatum) are well known to answer each other’s ticking, and, as I have myself observed, a tapping noise artificially made. Mr. Doubleday also informs me that he has sometimes observed a female ticking (80. According to Mr. Doubleday, “the noise is produced by the insect raising itself on its legs as high as it can, and then striking its thorax five or six times, in rapid succession, against the substance upon which it is sitting.” For references on this subject see Landois, ‘Zeitschrift fur wissen. Zoolog.’ B. xvii. s. 131. Olivier says (as quoted by Kirby and Spence, ‘Introduction to Entomology,’ vol. ii. p. 395) that the female of Pimelia striata produces a rather loud sound by striking her abdomen against any hard substance, “and that the male, obedient to this call, soon attends her, and they pair.”), and in an hour or two afterwards has found her united with a male, and on one occasion surrounded by several males. Finally, it is probable that the two sexes of many kinds of beetles were at first enabled to find each other by the slight shuffling noise produced by the rubbing together of the adjoining hard parts of their bodies; and that as those males or females which made the greatest noise succeeded best in finding partners, rugosities on various parts of their bodies were gradually developed by means of sexual selection into true stridulating organs.

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