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P.AUDISIO et al. - Osmoderma (Scarabaeidae)


Paolo AUDISIO, Herve BRUSTEL, Giuseppe Maria CARPANETO,
Giorgia COLETTI, Emiliano MANCINI, Emanuele PIATTELLA,
and Alessio DE BIASE

(Coleoptera, Scarabaeidae, Cetoniinae)

Fragmenta entomologica, Roma, 39 (2): 273-290 (2007)


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 EUs 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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