Cape stag beetle (Colophon primosi)

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Pinned specimen of the Cape stag beetle Colophon primosi
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Cape stag beetle fact file

Cape stag beetle description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumArthropoda
ClassInsecta
OrderColeoptera
FamilyLucanidae
GenusColophon (1)

Cape stag beetles are a group of slow-moving, wingless beetles whose 14 species are restricted to the mountain tops of Cape Province of South Africa (3). These reasonably stout beetles are medium-sized, and have shiny black bodies (4).

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Cape stag beetle biology

Nothing is known of the biology of these beetles. Based on observed behaviour, and what is known of other lucanid beetles, it is presumed that Colophon species have an extremely low reproductive rate (7). It is believed that these beetles are mainly crepuscular, particularly late afternoon early evening, but they also seem to become active earlier during misty and cloudy weather. During the day they tend to hide amongst low level vegetation or under stones (6).

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Cape stag beetle range

The genus Colophon is found only in isolated pockets in the mountains of the Western Cape Province around Cape Town, South Africa (5). Usually found at an altitude between 1000 to 2000 metres (6).

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Cape stag beetle habitat

Little is documented concerning habitat, but the species are thought to only occur in montane habitat associated with orographic fog and cloud cover. It is thought that this habitat is a refuge to which the beetles have retreated after lower altitude habitats became unsuitable due to temperature increases and habiatat loss (6).

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Cape stag beetle status

Colophon primosi is classified as Critically Endangered (CR) on the IUCN Red List (1) and listed on Appendix III of CITES (2).

IUCN Red List species status – Critically Endangered

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Cape stag beetle threats

Collectors appear to pose the greatest threat to this enigmatic group of beetles (4) (6). The Cape stag beetles are amongst the most highly prized beetles on the market (7), with complete sets of Colophon species fetching upward of $10,000, and even single specimens of the rarest species being advertised at several thousand dollars (3). Four Germans have recently been caught having captured 211 of these beetles (5). Other threats include habitat damage and loss, infrastructure development (such as mobile telephone masts), inappropriate fire regimes, human disturbance, climate change and over-collection by researchers (4). These threats are exacerbated by the small range occupied by this genus and their suspected low reproductive rate (4).

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Cape stag beetle conservation

All Colophon species were given provincial legal protection in 1992, which served to limit legal collection, internal trade, and export from the province (7) (3). Their listing on Appendix III of CITES also controls import and export of the species across South Africa’s borders (2). These laws appear to be fairly rigorously enforced, with the four Germans recently caught with over 200 of these rare beetles fined almost £10,000 (5). In 1994, it was proposed that Colophon beetles be upgraded to Appendix I of CITES, but the proposal was ultimately withdrawn (7). The upgrade of Colophon beetles to Appendix I would certainly help their chances of future survival, and should be seriously considered in the ongoing objective to protect these rare, endemic beetles.

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.
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Find out more

For more information on the Cape stag beetles see:

  • Melisch, R. and Schutz, P. (2000) Butterflies and Beetles in Germany. TRAFFIC Bulletin. 18(3): 0.

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Authentication

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact: arkive@wildscreen.org.uk
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Glossary

Crepuscular
Active at dusk and/or dawn.
Endemic
A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
Orographic
Related to, or caused by, the physical geography of mountains and mountain ranges.
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References

  1. IUCN Red List (October, 2009)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org
  2. CITES (October, 2009)
    http://www.cites.org/
  3. Beeton, B. (1997) Editorial Comments: Quote out of context – Colophon. TUGboat, 18(1): 5 - 6.
  4. Inland Invertebrate Initiative: Database of Threatened Invertebrates of South Africa (March, 2006)
    http://www.ukzn.ac.za/redlist/species_list.asp?currentPage=1&PageMove=Next
  5. Planet Ark: Rare beetles land Germans in hot water (March, 2006)
    http://www.planetark.com/dailynewsstory.cfm/newsid/23713/newsDate/5-Feb-2004/story.htm
  6. Geertsema, H. and Owen, C.R. (2007) Notes on the habitat and adult behaviour of three red-listed Colophon species. (Coleoptera : Lucanidae) of the Cape Floristic Region, South Africa. Journal of Insect Conservation, 11(1): 43 - 46.
  7. Melisch, R. and Schutz, P. (2000) Butterflies and Beetles in Germany. TRAFFIC Bulletin, 18(3).
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Image credit

Pinned specimen of the Cape stag beetle Colophon primosi  
Pinned specimen of the Cape stag beetle Colophon primosi

© Marion Burger / Inland Invertebrate Initiative

Inland Invertebrate Initiative
hamerm@nu.ac.za
http://www.ukzn.ac.za/redlist/

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