Caption: Carrion (sexton) beetle (Cryptarcha sp) and phorectic mite (Poecilochirus sp.). The genus Cryptarcha belongs to the family Nitidulidae and are common carrion beetles (also known as burying beetles or sap beetles). Cryptarcha species are part of the sub-family Cryptarchinae and have a life cycle of breeding on small carrion (dead animal carcass). They usually bury their food in order to rear their offspring by both the male and female adult. Cryptarcha beetles will mate and lay eggs on a decaying carcass. If the carcass is small the adult male and female will dig the ground under it until the carcass is buried. When the burying beetle eggs hatch the larva then consume as much of the carcass as they can, pupate then become adults. Often burying beetles are covered with tiny phoretic mites (seen here Poecilochirus sp.) which attach to the beetle and get carried from carcass to carcass. These mites feed on the eggs of flies and are not in competition with the burying beetle for decaying food consumption. When the burying beetle larva pupate, the immature mites join the beetle and thus from the beginning of adult life each beetle has its own complement of mites. Since phoretic mites cannot move far from a food source they must attach to a host, such as a carrion / burying beetle. Carrion beetles and phorectic mites areimportant to forensic entomologists because when they are found on a decaying body they are used to help estimate a post mortem interval.
Magnification*: x8
Type: SEM
Copyright 2010 Dennis Kunkel Microscopy, Inc.
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