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P. AUDISIO et al. - Updating the taxonomy and distribution of the European Osmoderma (Scarabaeidae)

 
 
Paolo AUDISIO, Herve BRUSTEL, Giuseppe Maria CARPANETO, 
Giorgia COLETTI, Emiliano MANCINI, Emanuele PIATTELLA, 
Marco TRIZZINO, Moreno DUTTO, Gloria ANTONINI 
and Alessio DE BIASE 
 
UPDATING THE TAXONOMY AND DISTRIBUTION OF THE 
EUROPEAN OSMODERMA, AND STRATEGIES 
FOR THEIR CONSERVATION 
(Coleoptera, Scarabaeidae, Cetoniinae) 
 
Fragmenta entomologica, Roma, 39 (2): 273-290 (2007) 
 
Introduction 
 
Hermit beetles are a group of flower chafers (Scarabaeidae: subfamily 
Cetoniinae: tribe Trichiini) of the genus Osmoderma LePeletier 
de Saint-Fargeau & Serville, 1828. They are large scarab beetles (more 
than 30 mm long) that live in old hollow trees. This genus includes 
a dozen of species widespread throughout the Palaearctic and the 
Nearctic Regions (see below for a world checklist of the genus). The 
geographic distribution and the ecological traits of the European species, 
jointed together under the name Osmoderma eremita sensu lato, 
have been recently summarized by Ranius & Nillson (1997), Schaffrath 
(2003a, 2003b), Ranius (2000, 2001), Ranius & Hedin (2001, 2004), 
and Ranius et al. (2005). These studies, supported by many other surveys 
conducted at local level, evidenced a strong decline suffered by 
this taxonomic group throughout its distribution range, and reported 
the extinction from some countries due to habitat loss and intensive 
forest management. For this reason, Osmoderma eremita s.l. was 
listed as prioritary species in Annex IV of the EU“s Habitat Directive 
(Luce 1995, 1996, 2001; Galante & Verdu 2000; Audisio et al. 2003; 
Ranius et al. 2005). 
 
As discussed in a series of recent contributions (Sparacio 1994, 
2000; Tauzin 1994a, b, 1996, 2000, 2002; Krell 1997; Gusakov 2002; 
Audisio et al. 2003; Dutto 2003; Ranius et al. 2004, 2005), under the 
name O. eremita are probably included at least two or more distinct 
species or semi-species, whose taxonomic rank has been matter for 
strongly controversial interpretations. In fact, some studies (Nussler 
1986; Sparacio 1994, 2000; Tauzin 1994b, 2006; Gusakov 2002; 
Audisio et al. 2003; Ranius et al. 2004) suggested a morphological 
distinction of at least two up to five substantially allopatric 
semi-species, whose actual taxonomic position is difficult to ascertain: 
O. eremita Scopoli, 1763 widespread in W Europe, eastwards 
to Germany and W Slovenia; O. cristinae Sparacio, 1994 confined 
to Sicily; O. italicum Sparacio, 2000 occurring in S Italy; O. lassallei 
Baraud & Tauzin, 1991 distributed in Greece and European Turkey; 
O. coriarius De Geer, 1774 sensu Gusakov (2002) from E Europe 
(this taxon hereafter treated under the combination O. barnabita 
Motschulsky, 1845; see below the Commented World Checklist). 
However, until very recently, O. eremita s.l. was provisionally 
treated as one species with clear geographic morphological variation 
and three recognized distinct subspecies (O. eremita eremita, O. eremita 
lassallei, and O. eremita cristinae (Krell 1997, 2004; Shokhin & 
Bozadjiev 2003). 
 
The aim of this paper is mainly to update the available information 
towards a reasonable and objectively supported taxonomic 
arrangement for the whole complex, mainly based on results of a 
companion molecular paper (Audisio et al. in press), and on recently 
checked distributional data. We also provide below a complete summary 
of both previous and current taxonomic and nomenclatorial interpretations, 
starting from the present-day official arrangement of 
the complex (O. eremita eremita, O. eremita lassallei, and O. eremita 
cristinae: Krell 2004), along with the rationale for the newly introduced 
taxonomic proposals, partly as a consequence of the molecular 
results of the above mentioned companion paper. Finally, we discuss 
how genetic and distributional data available so far could contribute 
in evaluating more correct strategies for the conservation of 
these rare and endangered species at European level. Hermit beetles, 
in fact, represent, especially in lowlands, one of the most important 
"flagship-species" and "umbrella-species" for the protection of the local 
saproxylic communities (Ranius 2002a, 2002b, 2002c; Audisio et 
al. 2003). 
 
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