Key to the British Silphidae

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Basal segment of the antennae as long as, or longer than, segments 2-6 combined, segments 8-11 form an asymmetric club which is abruptly very much wider than the preceding segments. The antennae often appear 10-segmented as the second segment (the pedicel) is diminutive and fused to the basal segment (scape). Frontoclypeal suture distinct and usually well formed. Form characteristic.


Basal segment proportionally much shorter. The pedicel is much more distinct and the terminal segments are gradually thickened or form a more weakly defined and loose club. The Frontoclypeal suture is either missing or very weakly impressed. Form variable; generally flat to some extent.


Elytra truncate, exposing 3 or 4 abdominal segment.

Necrodes littoralis

Elytra entire, completely covering the abdomen.


Elytra yellow or pale brown, with dark spots.

Dendroxena quadrimaculata

Black or black and red species.


Pronotum smoothly rounded anteriorly, head elongate.

Pronotum not smoothly rounded, head not elongate.


Elytra with distinct carinae. Antennal segments 6-8 quadrate. 10-15mm. Body varies from black to red.


Elytra without distinct carinae. Antennal segments 6-8 transverse. 12-18mm.

Silpha laevigata

Pronotum orange or red, elytra black.

Oiceoptoma thoracicum

Pronotum and elytra black or nearly so.


Dorsal surface of the elytra pubescent.

Aclypea opaca

Dorsal surface glabrous or nearly so.


Pronotal front angles projecting.

Anterior margin of the pronotum straight or nearly so.


Interstices of elytra with shiny tubercles.

Interstices of elytra without tubercles.

Thanatophilus rugosus

Elytra with scattered golden pubescence throughout, shoulders smoothly rounded.

Thanatophilus dispar

Elytra pubescent only at the base, shoulders with a small protruding tooth.

Thanatophilus sinuatus

Second antennal segment twice as long as the third. (Elytral interstices very strongly punctured.)

Aclypea undata

Second antennal segment at most only slightly longer than the third.


Eighth segment of the antennae campanulate and much longer than the ninth.

Silpha carinata

Eighth segment of the antennae at most as long as the ninth.


Upper surface shiny, with a leaden reflection. Elytra with scattered large punctures, especially near the carinae.

Silpha tyrolensis

Upper surface generally dull matt black. Elytral punctures uniform.


Elytral punctures flat. Humeral carina more strongly raised than the others.

Silpha obscura

Elytral punctures with a tiny raised granule on the anterior margin. Elytral carinae uniformly raised.

Silpha tristis

Elytra black, without red markings.

Elytra with transverse red markings.


Antennal club black. Explanate sides of the pronotum distinctly punctured.

Nicrophorus germanicus

Antennal club brown. Explanate sides of the pronotum smooth or very indistinctly punctured.

Nicrophorus humator

Antennal club black.

Antennal club orange.

Nicrophorus vespilloides

Pronotum glabrous, or nearly so.

Pronotal front and rear margins pubescent.


Anterior red fasciae continuous across the elytra.

Anterior red mark interrupted at the suture.

Nicrophorus investigator
Nicrophorus interruptus

Pubescence continuous around the pronotal margins. Hind tibiae straight.

Nicrophorus vestigator

Pubescence on the anterior margin of the pronotum only. Hind tibia curved inwards behind the apex.

Nicrophorus vespillo