Probably the largest insect in the world, the adult titan beetle, Titanus giganteus, cuts an imposing figure. The adult beetle has a flattened body, long, soft wing cases covering a large abdomen, and long spiny legs. The mouthparts, or mandibles, are narrow, powerful, and distinctly longer than the head. As in other longhorn beetles of the Cerambycidae family, the antennae are longer than the head. The head, legs and body are black, and the upper thorax and wing cases are a dark reddish-brown (2).
The adult male titan beetle has rows of sharp spines along the inside margins of the legs and thorax, which are thought to be used in defence (2). Although existing specimens of the male titan beetle are larger than the females that have been collected, it is thought that the female is larger, more robust, and has shorter antennae than the male (2) (3).
- Also known as
- giant long-horned beetle.
- Length: up to 16.7cm (2)
Titan beetle biology
The larva of the titan beetle is thought to be much larger than the adult. Based on knowledge of other related longhorn beetles, the larvae of this species may need large pieces of buried wood to develop, such as the large root systems of rotting rainforest trees. Other related species of longhorn beetles are known to take years to fully develop, feeding on the buried rotting wood. After metamorphosis, the adults emerge to fly and reproduce, but do not feed (2).
It is thought that predators of the titan beetle include large birds, fish, and mammals such as coatis, foxes and large monkeys. In 1910, an explorer found a specimen inside the stomach of a large fish that was being prepared for the dinner table (2).
Titan beetle range
The titan beetle is only found in the tropics of South America, including Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, the Guianas and north-central Brazil (2).
Titan beetle habitat
The titan beetle lives in tropical rainforest, but little is known about its specific habitat requirements. Other beetles of the longhorn family are wood borers and live amongst dead wood (4).
Titan beetle status
This species has yet to be classified by the IUCN.
Titan beetle threats
The titan beetle has yet to be assessed by the IUCN, and very little is known about this species and the threats it faces. However, it may be threatened by habitat loss through deforestation (2).
Titan beetle conservation
The titan beetle is also often collection by locals for the specimen trade. Ironically, collection for the specimen trade may actually preserve the titan beetle and its rainforest habitat. Usually only the males are collected, which spares the egg-laying females and ensures the growth of the population. Also, the trade encourages the locals to maintain the rainforest in pristine condition to ensure future supplies of specimens (2). Trapping individuals is also a good way of finding out more about species (5).
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- In arthropods (crustaceans, insects and arachnids) the abdomen is the hind region of the body, which is usually segmented to a degree (but not visibly in most spiders). In crustacea (such as crabs), some of the limbs attach to the abdomen; in insects the limbs are attached to the thorax (the part of the body nearest to the head) and not the abdomen.
- A pair of sensory structures on the head of invertebrates.
- The pair of mouthparts most commonly used for seizing and cutting food, common to the centipedes, millipedes and insects.
- An abrupt physical change from the larval to the adult form.
- Part of the body located between the head and the abdomen in animals. In insects, the three segments between the head and the abdomen, each of which has a pair of legs. In vertebrates the thorax contains the heart and the lungs.
Species 2000 ITIS Catalogue of Life (August, 2011)
Natural History Museum, UK - Titan beetle (August, 2011)
Hovore, F.T. and Santos-Silva, A. (2004) Notes and descriptions of Neotropical Macrotomini (Coleoptera, Cerambycidae, Prioninae). Revista Brasileira de Entomologia, 48(1): 49-54.
Santos-Silva, A. and Esteban Duran, J.R. (2009) Description of the female of Strongylaspis granigera Bates, 1884 (Coleoptera, Cerambycidae, Prioninae). Spanish Journal of Agricultural Research, 7(2): 349-354.
McIntosh, R.L., Katinic, P.J., Allison, J.D., Borden, J.H. and Downey, D.L. (2001) Comparative efficacy of five types of trap for woodborers in the Cerambycidae, Buprestidae and Siricidae. Agriculture and Forest Entomology, 3: 113-120.