Burying beetle Nicrophorus vespillo, photographed by James K. Lindsey.

Belongs within: Staphylinidae.
Contains: Silpha.

The Silphidae are a family of large, flattened beetles. Silphids are best known as scavengers of vertebrate carcasses but other species are predators of gastropods or insect larvae, or phytophagous. Silphinae, the large carrion beetles, prefer to reproduce on larger carcasses whereas Nicrophorus, the sexton or burying beetles, prefer smaller carcasses that they often bury before laying their eggs on them. Nicrophorus species are strikingly coloured in red or orange and black and exhibit well-developed parental care with larvae being fed by their parents through regurgitation (Peck 1990). As well as the widespread genus Nicrophorus, the subfamily Nicrophorinae includes the Asian genera Eonecrophorus and Ptomascopus. They are distinguished from other silphids by their truncate elytra, exposing three or four abdominal tergites, and stridulatory files on the fifth abdominal tergite (Peck 2001).

Characters (from Lawrence & Britton 1991): Relatively large and flattened with distinctive antennae (relatively long, eleven-segmented, with large, three-segmented, slightly asymmetrical, finely pilose club preceded by at least one glabrous, strongly transverse, concave segment). Body either glabrous or clothed with very short, fine hairs; eyes moderately large and protuberant; fore coxae large and projecting, all tarsal segments clothed beneath with yellow hairs. Larvae broad, depressed, heavily sclerotised, with lateral, plate-like expansions on thorax and abdomen.

<==Silphidae [Necrophoridae]
    |  i. s.: Dendroxena quadrimaculata P01
    |         Mercata festira Lin 1986 RJ93
    |         Xylodrepa quadripunctata RD77
    |--Nicrophorinae P01
    |     |--Eonecrophorus P01
    |     |--Ptomascopus aveyronensis P01, Z02
    |     `--Nicrophorus Fabricius 1775 (see below for synonymy) P01
    |          |--N. americanus Olivier 1790 B14
    |          |--N. antennatus C01
    |          |--N. carolinus P90
    |          |--N. defodiens P90
    |          |--N. germanicus R13
    |          |--N. gutula [incl. N. hecate] P90
    |          |--N. humator C01
    |          |--N. hybridus P90
    |          |--N. interruptus RD77
    |          |--N. investigator P90
    |          |--N. marginatus P90
    |          |--N. mexicanus P90
    |          |--N. morio [incl. N. morio var. funebris] C01
    |          |--N. nigrita P90
    |          |--N. orbicollis Say 1825 GN09
    |          |--N. obscurus P90
    |          |--N. pseudobrutor C01
    |          |--N. pustulatus P90
    |          |--N. sayi P90
    |          |--N. tomentosus P90
    |          |--N. vespillo SMB91
    |          `--N. vespilloides P90
    `--Silphinae P90
         |--Silpha C01
         |--Diamesus osculans P01, LB91
         |--Oxelytrum Gistel 1848 (see below for synonymy) P01
         |    `--O. discicolle (Brullé 1836) P01
         |--Necrodes Leach 1815 (see below for synonymy) P01
         |    |--N. lacrymosa B35
         |    `--N. surinamensis (Fabricius 1775) GN09
         |--Heterosilpha Portevin 1926 P90
         |    |--H. aenescens (Casey 1880) P01
         |    `--H. ramosa (Say 1823) P01
         |--Ptomaphila P01
         |    |--P. lacrymosa LB91
         |    `--P. perlata LB91
         |--Necrophila Kirby & Spence 1828 (see below for synonymy) P01
         |    |  i. s.: N. americana (Linnaeus 1758) P01
         |    `--N. (Chrysosilpha Portevin 1921) B14, P01
         |         `--N. (C.) formosa (Laporte 1832) B14
         |--Aclypea Reitter 1884 [incl. Blitophaga Reitter 1884] P01
         |    |--A. bituberosa (LeConte 1859) P01
         |    |--A. opaca (Linnaeus 1758) P01 [=Blitophaga opaca R13]
         |    `--‘Blitophaga’ undata [incl. B. undata var. verrucosa] C01
         |--Oiceoptoma Leach 1815 [=Oeceoptoma Agassiz 1847; incl. Isosilpha Portevin 1920] P01
         |    |--O. inaequale P90
         |    |--O. noveboracense P90
         |    `--O. rugulosum P90
         `--Thanatophilus Leach 1815 (see below for synonymy) P01
              |--T. coloradensis P90
              |--T. lapponicus P90
              |--T. micans (Fabricius 1794) GN09
              |--T. sagax P90
              |--T. sinuatus [incl. T. sinuatus var. erythrurus] C01
              |--T. trituberculatus P90
              `--T. truncatus P90

Necrodes Leach 1815 [incl. Asbolus Bergroth 1884, Cyclophorus Stephens 1829 non Montfort 1810, Protonecrodes Portevin 1922] P01

Necrophila Kirby & Spence 1828 [incl. Calosilpha Portevin 1920, Deutosilpha Portevin 1920, Eosilpha Semenov-Tian-Shanskij 1890] P01

Nicrophorus Fabricius 1775 [=Necrophorus Thunberg 1789; incl. Canthopsilus Portevin 1914, Cyrtoscelis Hope 1840, Eunecrophorus Semenov-Tian-Shanskij 1933, Necrocharis Portevin 1923, Necrocleptes Semenov-Tian-Shanskij 1933, Necrophagas Leach 1815, Necrophoniscus Semenov-Tian-Shanskij 1933, Necrophorindus Semenov-Tian-Shanskij 1933, Necropter Semenov-Tian-Shanskij 1933, Necroxenus Semenov-Tian-Shanskij 1926, Neonicrophorus Hatch 1946, Nesonecrophorus Semenov-Tian-Shanskij 1933, Nesonecropter Semenov-Tian-Shanskij 1933, Stictonecropter Semenov-Tian-Shanskij 1933] P01

Oxelytrum Gistel 1848 [incl. Hyponecrodes Kraatz 1876, Katanecrodes Schouteden 1905, Paranecrodes Portevin 1921] P01

Thanatophilus Leach 1815 [incl. Chalcosilpha Portevin 1926, Philas Portevin 1903, Pseudopelta Bergroth 1884, Silphosoma Portevbin 1903] P01

*Type species of generic name indicated


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[P90] Peck, S. B. 1990. Insecta: Coleoptera Silphidae and the associated families Agyrtidae and Leiodidae. In: Dindal, D. L. (ed.) Soil Biology Guide pp. 1113–1136. John Wiley & Sones: New York.

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[SMB91] Schwarz, H. H., J. K. Müller & A. Baker. 1991. Genetic differentiation between deuteronymphs of Poecilochirus carabi (Mesostigmata, Parasitidae) living on sympatric Necrophorus species (Coleoptera, Silphidae). In: Dusbábek, F., & V. Bukva (eds) Modern Acarology: Proceedings of the VIII International Congress of Acarology, held in České Budĕjovice, Czechoslovakia, 6–11 August 1990 vol. 2 pp. 431–436. SPB Academic Publishing: The Hague.

[Z02] Zherikhin, V. V. 2002. Ecological history of the terrestrial insects. In: Rasnitsyn, A. P., & D. L. J. Quicke (eds) History of Insects pp. 331–388. Kluwer Academic Publishers: Dordrecht.

Last updated: 13 December 2020.

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