Friday Beetle Blogging: Apteroloma caraboides

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Apteroloma caraboides (Agyrtidae) – Snowfield Beetle
California

Why would I waste a prime Friday Beetle Blogging slot on such a drab little beetle? Because Apteroloma caraboides does something really cool. Really cold, even. This species inhabits the edges of high-altitude snowfields. They are found in places like these, in the high Sierra Nevada:

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Snowfields are an inhospitable environment for an insect, but one that offers animals with good cold tolerance a unique way to make a living. Apteroloma caraboides cruise the easy pickings of less hardy creatures that fall onto the snow and freeze.

It turns out that snowfields catch enough fallen biomass to support whole communities of specialized snow scavengers. In addition to Apteroloma, the summer snow pack hosts ground beetles and rove beetles as well as the odd cricket-like Grylloblatta rock-crawlers. It’s an unexpected ecosystem, and one that unfortunately will bear the brunt of climate change.

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