The world is full of cool beetles. I mean, REALLY full of these hard-shelled little - and sometimes big - charmers. The order Coleoptera is huge; it contains some 400,000 described species and experts think that that many again, if not more, have yet to be described. In many habitats, beetles are the most numerous type of animal. A great many are tiny and nondescript, apt to be passed by without ever being seen.
Not these two.
SEE HERE - but this species far outdoes Megalodacne fasciata in sheer grandiosity. These three were part of a small herd that I encountered back in June in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
warning - coloration. The carapace is boldly ornamented in brilliant orange, forming a striking and very obvious contrast with the gloss black base coloration. The jarringly conspicuous coloration pattern, coupled with its diurnal - daytime - habits and fearlessness, strongly suggest that this is a beetle that you do not wish to eat. As many species of fungus are toxic, I assume that these beetles are too.
In 1979, entomologist Edward Barrows published a wonderful paper on this species, and another similar tortoise beetle. You see, tortoise beetles are chameleonlike and can change color, which adds greatly to their allure. Barrows documented that a tortoise beetle can shift its colors in as little as 12 seconds. When all is well and they're having fun, such as in this photo, a bronzy-gold metallic cast is normal. As light plays over the beetle, glancing off its shell at different angles, a rainbow of blues, greens, and even purplish tints are reflected back.
Beetles may be small, but they certainly can be sublime.