Carolyne N. Gray
Journal of Insect Science 5 (11), 1-14, (1 April 2005) https://doi.org/10.1673/031.005.1101
KEYWORDS: adhesive and cohesive aggregation, clumping, clustering, decomposer, habitat complexity, minimum risk distribution, photonegativity
Although a significant number of behavioral studies of desert tenebrionids have been done, almost nothing is recorded of Trichoton sordidum (LeConte) (Coleoptera: Tenebrionidae), an inhabitant of the sunny, sparsely vegetated US/Mexican borderlands. For this small, flightless beetle successful predator evasion and adaptation to a desert environment has required development of complicated, quickly utilizable behavioral mechanisms for regulating exposure to extremes of heat, light, humidity, and habitat structure. In this study, T. sordidum was exposed to sudden changes in temperature, illumination, and habitat complexity, and some patterns representing its normal aggregation were recorded. Minimum Risk Distribution models (Floater 2001) predict changes in spatial distribution patterns of groups of individuals as they are exposed to environmental change. A successful species must have a large percentage of individuals adhering to changes with a set pattern of behaviors. All groups of T. sordidum tested demonstrated both rapid and cohesive dispersal patterns. They normally showed little tendency toward clustering, except clear adhesive aggregation patterns in cases of limited resources in a fragmented environment. Under conditions of extreme heat or light, aggregations in the form of clumping did occur. The formation of clumps from simple two-stacks to groups of up to ten is documented here. The sophistication, consistency of use, and rapid initiation of clumps suggest clumping might well be a highly evolved and successful mechanism for group threat evasion. The morphology of T. sordidum shows how clumping is achieved. An examination of the conditions leading to clumping gives clues to why clumps are formed.