Beetle records: overview

Scott Elias

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Beetles have a well-preserved, abundant Quaternary fossil record in many regions of the world. Fossil beetle research has led to many exciting breakthroughs in our understanding of the pace and intensity of climate change in terrestrial landscapes. Beetles are the most diverse group of organisms on Earth, with more than 1 million species known to science. A large proportion of beetle species are known to be quite sensitive to environmental change, and to shift their distributions across continents in order to become established in regions of suitable environment (Elias (1994)Quaternary Insects and Their Environments. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press). Fossil beetle assemblages have been recovered from a wide variety of sedimentary environments, especially anoxic water-lain sediments that concentrate the remains in layers of organic detritus. Their remains are easily extracted from sediments, and faunal assemblages frequently include more than 100 identified species. Paleoclimatic reconstructions based on beetle assemblage data have demonstrated the same rapid, large-scale changes in temperatures seen in oxygen isotope records from Greenland. Beetle assemblages also provide highly detailed reconstructions of other aspects of past environments, including vegetation, substrates, and water quality. Beetle and other arthropod remains are also making significant contributions to the field of environmental archaeology.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEncyclopedia of Quaternary Science
EditorsScott Elias
Place of PublicationAmsterdam
Number of pages12
ISBN (Print)978-0-444-53642-6
Publication statusPublished - 15 Apr 2013


  • Beetles; Coleoptera; Environmental archaeology; Insects; Paleoclimate; Paleoecology; Pleistocene; Quaternary

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