Nicrophorus germanicus (Linnaeus, 1758)

German Sexton Beetle

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POLYPHAGA Emery, 1886

STAPHYLINOIDEA Latreille, 1802

SILPHIDAE Latreille, 1806

NICROPHORINAE Kirby, 1837

NICROPHORUS Fabricius, 1775

This very local and sporadic species occurs throughout lowland central and eastern Europe from France to northern Italy and western Russia and north to the south of Scandinavia; it is included in the UK list on the strength of 19th century records from East Sussex, Norfolk, Oxfordshire, Berkshire and Buckinghamshire although none have been accurately dated. There are no modern records and if it had been established it seems now to be long extinct, conversely it may have been occasionally introduced but never established. The life history is typical of the genus with larvae developing in buried carrion; on the continent it has been recorded from both small and large vertebrates as well as decaying fungi and adults have been shown to be partly predatory.

This is a large species, 20-35mm, superficially similar to the abundant N. humator (Gleditsch, 1767) but differing in the colour of the antennal club; in the present species it is black whereas in humator it is red. In many keys the distinguishing character is the colour of the elytral epipleura; red in germanicus and black in humator, but in all our specimens of humator, and in many others examined, the central part of the epipleura are red, or at least orange. The primary identification manual for amateurs for much of the 20th century was Joy’s handbook but this does not include germanicus and so maybe there are specimens going unnoticed in old collections? Given the assumption that germanicus is long extinct it is likely that all-dark specimens of Nicrophorus have routinely been thought to be humator; and it is curious that germanicus has not been claimed on the strength of the epipleural colour.

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