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History of the Miami Tiger Beetle
Lurking in the woods of pine rockland habitat are small and colorful tigers. You won’t recognize them by their stripes. No, they aren’t named tigers because they look like the big cats. They get their name from their highly voracious predatory behaviors. The Miami tiger beetle (Cicindelidia floridana) was discovered in 1934 when Frank Young collected beetles and sent them to Oscar Cartwright. The original location of discovery was in North Miami and is now currently developed near Berry University. Cartwright published a description of the beetle in 1939 but soon after its discovery, the beetles went missing.
Characteristics and Habitat
The Miami tiger beetle has an adult size range from 6.5-9mm long. Their body is a metallic green-blue with small punctured indentations on the wings, or elytra. They have very large eyes in proportion to the rest of their bodies and are highly visual predators. They can fly but are often seen darting along the ground quickly and usually only fly if disturbed. The Miami tiger beetle lives in pine rockland habitats in Miami-Dade County. Adults prefer open sandy patches for oviposition and hunting. Today, their habitat has nearly been eliminated and there is less than 2% of the pine rockland’s original range remaining in Miami-Dade County.
Decades went by without a trace of the Miami tiger beetle until 2007 when Jeff Slotten collected a beetle from the pine rocklands and discovered that this was the missing species last seen in 1939. The Miami tiger beetle survived in the underbrush and open patches of a fragment of pine rocklands. Its rediscovery prompted more questions about its future.
In 2014, a few naturalist organizations came together to file a petition to encourage elevating the status for the Miami tiger beetle. By 2016, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service declared the beetle was federally endangered. The official rule did not include a critical habitat designation until being proposed in September 2021.
Why is it important?
The Miami tiger beetle is one of the rarest and smallest tiger beetles in the U.S and it is endemic to the pine rocklands in Miami-Dade County. Habitat loss and urbanization has greatly decreased its original range in the county. Predatory beetles like these help keep a balance in the ecosystem by controlling smaller insect populations.
Click on the video below to see how a Miami tiger beetle navigates its habitat and hunts ants.