False skin beetles, Biphyllid beetlesFloyd W. Shockley and Andrew R. Cline
- Althaesia Pascoe 1860
- Anchorius Casey 1900
- Biphyllus Dejean 1821
- Diplocoelus Guerin-Meneville 1844
- Euderopus Sharp 1902
- Gonicoelus Sharp 1900
IntroductionBiphyllidae is a relatively small family of small- to medium-sized mycophagous beetles. The family is cosmopolitan in distribution, occurring in all zoogeographic regions except New Zealand, with highest diversity in the tropics. However, its members are often difficult to collect and rarely appear in most collections. The family currently includes six genera and approximately 200 species (Lawrence 1982, Goodrich and Springer 1992, Cline and McHugh 2010).
Cline and Shockley (2010) summarized the known biology and ecology of the family. Both adults and larvae appear to be obligately mycophagous. The most common method for collecting biphyllids is in association with their host Ascomycete fungus. Biphyllids have been collected in association with the following ascomycete fungi: Cryptostroma, Daldinia, Hypoxylon, Nammularia, Tubercularia, and Xylaria (see Cline and Shockley 2010 for specific associations and references). Specimens may also be collected by peeling bark from dead trees, mostly hardwoods, or by sifting moist leaf litter and other decaying plant material. Biphyllids do not appear to be attracted to UV or mercury vapor lights, and are only infrequently encountered in malaise or flight intercept traps.
CharacteristicsAdults of this family are easily recognizable among cucujoid beetles. In general, the adults can be recognized by the presence of lateral and/or femoral lines on the first abdominal sternite and/or postcoxal lines on the metasternite. In general, adults can be characterized by the following combination of characters (based on Lawrence et al. 1999a, Goodrich 2002, Cline and Shockley 2010):
- Elongate-oval dorsal habitus, somewhat dorsoventrally flattened but still conspicuously convex
- Antennae 11-segmented with a 3-segmented club; antennal grooves present, each groove bearing a lateral pre-gular pocket
- Procoxal cavities closed behind, mesocoxal cavities open laterally
- All coxae distinctly, sometimes widely, separated
- Tarsal formula 5-5-5 with slender fleshy lobes on tarsomeres II and III
- Lateral and/or femoral lines present on abdominal sternite I (ventrite III)
- Elytra bearing distinct serially striate punctation
- Body elongate, parallel-sided, cylindrical to slightly flattened
- Dorsum not heavily sclerotized, lightly to moderately pigmented, smooth
- Head prognathous, epicranial stem absent or short, frontal sutures lyriform
- 6 pairs of stemmata
- Antennae short, 3-segmented, sensory appendage relatively short (much shorter than antennomere III)
- Mandibles bearing an accessory ventral process and well-developed, sickle-shaped mola bearing a hyaline lobe at base
- Maxillary palpi 3-segmented; labial palpi 2-segmented
- Legs well-developed, 5-segmented with unisetose tarsungulus
- Urogomphi usually absent, but short and fixed if present
TaxonomyAlthough Silfverberg (1992) and Goodrich and Springer (1992) credit Sharp (1900) for establishment of the family-group name, Lawrence and Newton (1995) pointed out that this assertion of family-group author assignment is incorrect. The family-group name was actually first established by LeConte (1861), based on the genus Diphyllus. Unfortunately, Diphyllus was an unjustified emendation of Biphyllus by Redtenbacher (1858). Under the rule of priority, correction of this emendation and the subsequent synonymy of Diphyllus under Biphyllus makes LeConte's family-group name valid, albeit under the corrected name Biphyllidae. Arrow (1929) is generally credited with formal elevation of the group to the family-level. Most subsequent workers (Leng and Mutchler 1933, Schenkling 1934, Blackwelder 1945, Arnett 1963) have continued to treat biphyllids as a distinct family.
Relationships of Biphyllidae to Other Beetles
There has been considerable confusion regarding the phylogenetic relationship of Biphyllidae to other beetle families. Over the years, species of Biphyllidae have been placed (always together as a group) within a number of other families including Mycetophagidae (LeConte 1861, Reitter 1877, Horn 1878, LeConte and Horn 1883), Cryptophagidae (Redtenbacher 1858, Thomson 1863, Reitter 1887, Casey 1900), Erotylidae (Ganglbauer 1899, Kuhnt 1911, Roberts 1958), and Byturidae (Falcoz 1926). In addition, potential relationships to Bothrideridae, Nitidulidae, Protocucujidae and Cerylonidae have also been suggested (Crowson 1967, Lawrence 1991). Cline and Shockley (2010) pointed out that the pre-gular pockets on the head and the presence of lateral/femoral lines on abdominal sternite I combine as potential synapomorphies to unite all members of the family. Current consensus places Biphyllidae within Cucujoidea (Crowson 1967), sister to Byturidae (Falcoz 1926, Barber 1942, Crowson 1967, Goodrich & Springer 1992).
To date, there have been only two phylogenetic studies published that included members of Biphyllidae, offering the only insights into the evolutionary relationship of Biphyllidae to other cucujoid taxa. Leschen et al. (2005) performed the first cladistic analysis of the basal cucujoid families (excluding the Cerylonid Series) based on adult and larval morphology. Unfortunately, adult and larval morphology were incongruent in their placement of Biphyllidae. Adult morphology supported a sister group relationship between Biphyllidae and Erotylidae, while larval morphology supported a relationship between Biphyllidae and Byturidae.
More recently, a molecular phylogenetic analysis of Coleoptera based on 3 genes (Hunt et al. 2007) recovered Biphyllidae as sister to Byturidae, placed within the superfamily Cleroidea. However, this placement was not strongly supported and is likely an artifact of the inappropriate scope and taxon sampling used for the study, which was targeting the more basal nodes within the coleopteran phylogeny. Nonetheless, the sister group relationship between Biphyllidae and Byturidae was strongly supported.
Discussion of Phylogenetic Relationships
No phylogenetic studies have yet been performed to assess intra-familial relationships at any level within Biphyllidae.
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About This Page
We wish to thank Ms. Karie Darrow, SI Entomology, for photographing specimens for the title illustrations. Partial support for the construction of this page was provided by the H.H. Ross Endowment of the Department of Entomology at the University of Georgia, through an NSF AToL grant EF-0531665 to M.F. Whiting (subcontract to J.V. McHugh) and through an NSF PEET grant (DEB-0329115) to J.V. McHugh, M.F. Whiting, and K.B. Miller.
Floyd W. Shockley
Dept. of Entomology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution
California Department of Food and Agriculture
Correspondence regarding this page should be directed to Floyd W. Shockley at and Andrew R. Cline at
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- First online 05 February 2011
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Citing this page:
Shockley, Floyd W. and Andrew R. Cline. 2011. Biphyllidae. False skin beetles, Biphyllid beetles. Version 05 February 2011. http://tolweb.org/Biphyllidae/9164/2011.02.05 in The Tree of Life Web Project, http://tolweb.org/