Rare click beetles

Cleide Costa and Sergio Antonio Vanin
Click on an image to view larger version & data in a new window
Click on an image to view larger version & data in a new window
taxon links [up-->]Cerophytum [up-->]Phytocerum [up-->]Brachycerophytum [down<--]Elateroidea Interpreting the tree
close box

This tree diagram shows the relationships between several groups of organisms.

The root of the current tree connects the organisms featured in this tree to their containing group and the rest of the Tree of Life. The basal branching point in the tree represents the ancestor of the other groups in the tree. This ancestor diversified over time into several descendent subgroups, which are represented as internal nodes and terminal taxa to the right.

example of a tree diagram

You can click on the root to travel down the Tree of Life all the way to the root of all Life, and you can click on the names of descendent subgroups to travel up the Tree of Life all the way to individual species.

For more information on ToL tree formatting, please see Interpreting the Tree or Classification. To learn more about phylogenetic trees, please visit our Phylogenetic Biology pages.

close box
tree modified from Costa et al. (2003, 2010)
Containing group: Elateroidea


The family includes three genera and 21 described species, distributed as follows (Costa et al. 2003, 2010): the Holarctic Cerophytum Latreille (western and eastern USA; southern and central Europe and Japan); the Neotropical Brachycerophytum Costa et al. (Mexico, Colombia, Peru and Bolivia) and Phytocerum Costa et al. (Mexico, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Guatemala, French Guiana, Trinidad, Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay and Argentina). An undescribed species, up to now represented only by females, is known from Africa.

Adult cerophytids have been collected at light traps or Malaise traps, by beating vegetation, in association with rotten wood or bark, and in leaf litter and underground debris (Steiner, 2000; Costa et al. 2003). Adults are capable of “clicking” by the sudden release of the prothorax in the same manner as Elateridae. It is also possible that the enlarged and modified profemora and the lack of metacoxal plates in Cerophytidae are both connected in some way with escape behavior (Costa et al. 2003).

The larva of Cerophytum is highly unusual and differs from those of all other Elateroidea in having unique mouthparts involving paired sucking grooves, styliform mandibles and maxillae, paired thoracic and abdominal glands and bifurcate pretarsi. The larva of C. elateroides was first described by Rey (1887) based on specimens collected with an adult in the rotten trunk of Sambucus (Caprifoliaceae). Mamaev (1978) redescribed and illustrated the Cerophytum larva based on a series of specimens found in the dark fungus–infested wood (brown rot) of a dead standing Ulmus in association with larvae of Oedemeridae (Costa et al. 2003).


(based on Mamaev 1978; Lawrence 1991; Lawrence et al. 1999a, b; Costa et al. 2003)




Latreille (1825) placed Cerophytum in the group Sternoxi of Serricornia, along with Buprestidae and most elateroid genera known at the time. In 1834, he proposed a family group based on Cerophytum, and this was recognized by Lacordaire (1857) who suggested a relationship with Eucnemidae. Crowson (1955) considered the family to be part of the Elateroidea (sensu stricto), and this has been followed by most workers. The unusual, apparently plesiomorphic nature of the cerophytid propleurocoxal mechanism prompted Hlavac (1975) to remove the group from Elateroidea and to place it together with two other elateriform families of doubtful affinities, Artematopodidae and Brachypsectridae. In cladograms produced by Lawrence (1988) Cerophytidae formed a clade with Eucnemidae and Throscidae (sensu stricto) or was basal to a clade containing these two families plus Elateridae. A similar association was found in analyses conducted by Calder et al. (1993), Beutel (1995), and Lawrence et al. (1995). In Muona’s (1993) revision of Eucnemidae, Cerophytidae were considered basal to the elateroid complex (Elateroidea sensu Crowson 1955) and in a later cladistic analysis (Muona1995) Cerophytidae and Eucnemidae formed one clade whereas Throscidae (sensu Crowson 1955) represented a derived group within Elateridae (Costa et al.2003, 2010).


(Based on Costa et al., 2003)

Discussion of Phylogenetic Relationships

Costa et al. (2003, 2010) carried out a cladistic analysis of the 21 known species of Cerophytidae, with outgroups from Elateridae, Throscidae and Eucnemidae. Three main clades were recognized: (Cerophytum (Brachycerophytum, Phytocerum)). Synapomorphies for the family include: 1. chin piece ventrally directed; 2. posterior pronotal angles produced laterally; 3. metatrochanters more than half as long as metafemora; 4. base of tergite IX and sternite X fused; 5. parameres divided into proximal sclerotized and distal membranous regions; 6. phallobase Y–shaped; 7. parameres projecting anteriorly, beneath phallobase. Possible larval synapomorphies are: sucking mouthparts formed by styliform mandibles and maxillae enclosed in separate lateral channels; anterior pretarsi bifurcate; and labium forming a five–toothed plate. The Holarctic genus Cerophytum is characterized by having the profemur with a longitudinal carina and the dorsal region of the parameres fringed. Synapomorphies for the Neotropical clade include: posterior angles of pronotum reduced; upper distal angle of profemur acute and produced; and lateroposterior margin of phallobase protruding over the bases of parameres. Brachycerophytum is distinguished by the ninth elytral stria strongly convex, basal portion of penis strongly constricted and bursa copulatrix without smooth and elongate sclerites; while Phytocerum autapomorphies include the lack of a chin piece, presence of an additional row of punctures between stria 8 and 9, and sclerotized spermatheca absent.

Other Names for Cerophytidae


Beutel, R. G. (1995). Phylogenetic analysis of Elateriformia (Coleoptera: Polyphaga) based on larval characters. Journal of Zoological Systematics and Evolutionary Research 33: 145–171.

Calder, A. A., Lawrence, J. F. & Trueman, J. W. (1993). Austrelater, gen. nov. (Coleoptera: Elateridae) with a description of the larva and comments on elaterid relationships. Invertebrate Taxonomy 7: 1349–1394.

Costa, C., Vanin, S. A., Lawrence, J. F. & Ide, S. (2003). Systematics and cladistic analysis of Cerophytidae (Elateroidea: Coleoptera). Systematic Entomology 28: 375–407.

Costa, C., Vanin, S. A., Lawrence, J. F. & Ide, S. 2010. 4.4. Cerophytidae Latreille, 1834. p. 54-61. In Leschen, R. A. B., R. G. Beutel & J. F. Lawrence (eds). Coleoptera, Beetles: Morphology and Systematics (Elateroidea, Bostrichiformia, Cucujiformia partim). Volume 2, 786 p. In: N. P. Kristensen & R. G. Beutel (eds). Handbook of Zoology, Arthropoda: Insecta, Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co.KG, Berlin.

Crowson, R. A. (1955). The Natural Classification of the Families of Coleoptera. 187 pp. Nathaniel Lloyd, London.

Hlavac, T. F. (1975). The prothorax of Coleoptera (except Bostrichiformia – Cucujiformia). Bulletin of the Museum of Comparative Zoology 147: 137–183.

Lacordaire, J. T. (1857). Histoire naturelle des insectes. Genera des coléoptères ou exposé méthodique et critique de tous le genres proposés jusqu’ici dans cet ordre d’insectes, Vol. 4. 579 pp. Librairie Encyclopédique de Roret, Paris.

Latreille, P. A. (1825). Familles Naturelles du Règne Animal, Exposées Succinctement et dans un Ordre Analytique, avec l’Indication de leurs Genres. 570 pp. J.–B. Baillière, Paris.

Latreille, P. A. (1834). Distribution méthodique de la famille des Serricornes. Annales de la Société Entomologique de France 3: 113–170.

Lawrence, J. F. (1988). Rhinorhipidae, a new beetle family from Australia, with comments on the phylogeny of Elateriformia. Invertebrate Taxonomy 2 (1987): 1–53.

Lawrence, J. F. (1991). Cerophytidae (Elateroidea). Pp. 409–410 in Stehr, F. W. (ed.), Immature Insects, Vol. 2. Kendall / Hunt Publishing Co., Dubuque, Iowa.

Lawrence, J. F. & Newton, A. F., Jr. (1995). Families and subfamilies of Coleoptera (with selected genera, notes and references, and data on family–group names). Pp. 779–1006 in Pakaluk, J. & Ślipiński, S. A. (eds.) Biology, Phylogeny, and Classification of Coleoptera: Papers Celebrating the 80th Birthday of Roy A. Crowson. Muzeum i Instytut Zoologii PAN, Warsaw.

Lawrence, J. F., Hastings, A. M., Dallwitz, M. J., Paine, T. A. & Zurcher, E. J. (1999a). Beetle Larvae of the World: Descriptions, Illustrations, Identification, and Information Retrieval for Families and Subfamilies. CD–ROM, Version 1.1 for MS–Windows. CSIRO Publishing, Melbourne.

Lawrence, J. F., Hastings, A. M., Dallwitz, M. J., Paine, T. A. & Zurcher, E. J. (1999b). Beetles of the World: A Key and Information System for Families and Subfamilies. CD–ROM, Version 1.0 for MS–Windows. CSIRO Publishing, Melbourne.

Mamaev, B. M. (1978). Morphology of the larvae of Cerophytum elateroides Latr. and the phylogenetic ties of the Cerophytidae (Coleoptera) family. Doklady Akademii Nauk SSSR Zoologii 238: 1007–1008 (in Russian).

Muona, J. (1993). Review of the phylogeny, classification and biology of the family Eucnemidae (Coleoptera). Entomologica Scandinavica, Supplement 44: 1–133.

Muona, J. (1995). The phylogeny of Elateroidea (Coleoptera), or which tree is best today? Cladistics 11: 317–341.

Rey, C. (1887). Essai d’Études sur certaines larves des Coléoptères. Addendum. Larve supposé du Cerophytum elateroides, Latreille. Annales de la Société Linéenne de Lyon (Ser. 2) 33: 253 – 254.

Steiner, W. E., Jr. (2000). Records and habitats of the ‘rare click beetle’, Cerophytum pulsator (Haldeman), in Virginia and Maryland (Coleoptera: Cerophytidae). Banisteria 15: 43–45.

Title Illustrations
Click on an image to view larger version & data in a new window
Click on an image to view larger version & data in a new window
Scientific Name Phytocerum minutum
Comments Holotype specimen (ink drawing on scraperboard; modified from fig.1 Costa et al, 2003).
Specimen Condition Dead Specimen
Identified By Costa, Vanin, Lawrence and Ide
Sex Male
Life Cycle Stage adult
View dorsal
Size 5.1 mm
Type Holotype
Copyright © Cleide Costa
Scientific Name Cerophytum japonicum
Specimen Condition Dead Specimen
Identified By Kirill V. Makarov
Sex Male
Life Cycle Stage adult
View dorsal
Copyright © 2011 Kirill V. Makarov
Scientific Name Cerophytum elateroides
Specimen Condition Dead Specimen
Identified By Kirill V. Makarov
Sex Female
View dorsal
Copyright © Kirill V. Makarov
Scientific Name Cerophytum elateroides
Creator Cleide Costa
Specimen Condition Dead Specimen
Identified By B. Mamaev
Life Cycle Stage larva
View dorsal
Size 15 mm
Copyright © 2003 The Royal Entomological Society
About This Page

We thank Kirill V. Makarov (Moscow Pedagogical State University) for permission to use the photographs of Cerophytum elateroides and C. japonicum; Carlos Estevão Simonka for the electronic treatment of figure of Phytocerum minutum; Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico (CNPq) for the Research Grant 302721/2007 – 0 to C. Costa.

Cleide Costa
Museu de Zoologia, Universidade de São Paulo, Brasil

Departamento de Zoologia, Instituto de Biociências, Universidade de São Paulo

Correspondence regarding this page should be directed to Cleide Costa at and Sergio Antonio Vanin at

Page: Tree of Life Cerophytidae. Rare click beetles. Authored by Cleide Costa and Sergio Antonio Vanin. The TEXT of this page is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License - Version 3.0. Note that images and other media featured on this page are each governed by their own license, and they may or may not be available for reuse. Click on an image or a media link to access the media data window, which provides the relevant licensing information. For the general terms and conditions of ToL material reuse and redistribution, please see the Tree of Life Copyright Policies.

Citing this page:

Costa, Cleide and Sergio Antonio Vanin. 2011. Cerophytidae. Rare click beetles. Version 02 February 2011. in The Tree of Life Web Project,

edit this page
close box

This page is a Tree of Life Branch Page.

Each ToL branch page provides a synopsis of the characteristics of a group of organisms representing a branch of the Tree of Life. The major distinction between a branch and a leaf of the Tree of Life is that each branch can be further subdivided into descendent branches, that is, subgroups representing distinct genetic lineages.

For a more detailed explanation of the different ToL page types, have a look at the Structure of the Tree of Life page.

close box


Page Content

articles & notes



Explore Other Groups

random page

  go to the Tree of Life home page