Prionocyphon Marsh Beetle (Scirtidae)
Scirtidae is a small family of mostly small beetles found in wet, swampy habitats all over the world. Taxonomists find them to be difficult creatures, the larvae are archaic in appearance but the adults share some similarities with the elateriforms- click beetles, fireflies, and the like. Recent research based on ribosomal DNA sequences showed why their evolutionary relationships have been so hard to peg. Rather than fitting neatly inside one of the 4 beetle suborders, these insects are surprisingly old, diverging from the lineage that led to the giant suborder Polyphaga very near in time to the origin of the beetles themselves.
I photographed this Prionocyphon species near a woodland pond in an old growth oak forest in upstate New York. After the photographic session, I collected the beetle for the Beetle Tree of Life project. The DNA we sequenced from several additional genes confirmed the results of the earlier study: these are some very, very old beetles.
photo details: Canon MP-E 65mm 1-5x macro lens on a Canon 20D
ISO 100, f/13, 1/250 sec, flash diffused through tracing paper