Coral Pink Sand Dunes tiger beetle (Cicindela limbata albissima)

GenusCicindela (1)
SizeLength: 11 - 14 mm (8)

United States Fish and Wildlife Service Candidate Species (7).

The Coral Pink Sand Dunes tiger beetle is a subspecies of the tiger beetle Cicindela limbata. It has striking colouration; the large wing cases (known as elytra) are predominantly white and much of the body and legs are covered in white hairs (2). The upper thorax has a metallic sheen and the eyes are particularly large (2).

This beetle is only found within the dune system from where it gets its common name, the Coral Pink Sand Dunes, in southern Utah in the United States (3). The subspecies is endemic to the region and has a highly restricted range; a 13km long dune field (4).

Adults range from the troughs between the dunes to the upper slopes (8), whilst larvae are found only in the damper, and more protected furrows between the dunes (3).

Adult Coral Pink Sand Dunes tiger beetles are active predators on the sparse dune slopes (4), attacking and eating prey with their large and powerful mandibles(5). These beetles are active in the day, preying and scavenging on live and dead insects (5). At night, the beetles bury into the sand dunes (5). When mating, the male is able to tightly clasp the female with his mandibles on grooves along her side (5). The larvae of this beetle are found in individual burrows (8) within the furrows of the dune system; from here they are able to ambush small invertebrate prey (4). Within their burrows, the larvae may become hosts to the parasitic wasp Methoca sp. (4).

The Coral Pink Sand Dunes tiger beetle is severely threatened by the small size and highly restricted nature of its population; making this subspecies particularly vulnerable to any chance event, such as disease or natural disasters (6). The most recent estimate of population size comes from the year 2000, and puts the number at around 1270 individuals (4). One of the main threats to this subspecies however, comes from off-road vehicle (ORV) activity, which is extremely popular in the area (4). ORV is destroying the beetle's dune habitat and may also directly kill or injure adults of this already rare species (4). Tiger beetles are extremely popular with collectors; over-collection by professionals and amateurs also threatens the survival of this beetle (4).

The Coral Pink Sand Dunes tiger beetle is not currently protected, although it is a Federal Candidate Species for possible listing on the Endangered Species Act in the United States (7). A major effort in protecting this beetle was initiated in 1998, with the implementation of a Conservation Agreement that prohibits ORV activity from most of the beetle's habitat within the Coral Pink Sand Dunes (8). Conservation projects are also underway to research these fascinating beetles further, and to investigate the possibility of establishing a second population (5). Recent genetic studies suggest that this beetle should be recognised as a distinct species, a factor that will influence conservation measures (4).

For more information on the Coral Pink Sand Dunes tiger beetle see:

Authenticated (13/11/02) by Dr Knisley, Randolph - Macon College, Virginia.

  1. UNEP-WCMC database (September, 2002)
  2. Knisley, B. (Nov, 2002) Pers. comm.
  3. ECOS FWS (September, 2002)
  4. Personal observation from: CORAL PINK SAND DUNES STATE PARK (Ganglion Films) (2000, d. D.Bretton).
  5. UTAH Division of Wildlife Resources (September, 2002)
  6. ECOS FWS Candidate and Listing Priority Assignment Form (September, 2002)
  7. CORAL PINK SAND DUNES STATE PARK (Ganglion Films) (2000, d. D.Bretton).
  8. Vermilion Management Framework Plan (September, 2002)