A revision of the subfamily Nicrophorinae Kirby (Insecta: Coleoptera: Silphidae)

Date of Completion

January 2003


Biology, Entomology|Biology, Genetics




This work represents a preliminary version of a monographic revision of the silphid subfamily Nicrophorinae (Coleoptera: Silphidae) of the world. The 77 known, extant species are described or redescribed and their approximate geographic distributions are mapped. A key is provided to the world nicrophorine fauna. A Bayesian phylogenetic analysis was conducted based on an adult morphological data set of all known species, a larval morphological data set of 23 species, combined with an mtDNA data set of 34 species. Based on this analysis a new classification at the generic and species-group level is proposed. The subfamily Nicrophorinae is strongly supported as monophyletic and four extant genera are recognized: Proscapheus NEW GENUS (1 species), Ptomascopus Kraatz (2 species), Eonecrophorus Kurosawa (1 species), and Nicrophorus Fabricius (73 species); and two subgenera within the genus Nicrophorus: Nicrophorus (71 species), and Necroxenus Semenov-Tian-Shanskij NEW STATUS (2 species). The combined phylogenetic analysis strongly supports this classification, the relationships of which can be summarized as: (subfamily Nicrophorinae (tribe Proscapheini, genus Proscapheus), (tribe Nicrophorini (subtribe Ptomascopina, genus Ptomascopus), (subtribe Nicrophorina (genus Eonecrophorus), (genus Nicrophorus (subgenus Necroxenus, subgenus Nicrophorus)))). Twelve new species are described herein [note: these descriptions do not constitute valid publication of these names according to the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature]. Ninety three taxonomic changes resulting from this project were formally published in Sikes et al. (2002): 25 species names were synonymized, 2 synonyms were elevated to valid species, 12 synonyms were transfered to new senior synonyms, and 53 subspecific names were made absolute synonyms. A bibliographic catalog of all described species based on 1,151 references covering 1752–early 2002 is included as an appendix. All phylogenetic analyses had weakly supported internal branches at the base of the genus Nicrophorus, suggesting the genus experienced an ancient rapid, radiation. The monophyly of most prior hypotheses of species relationships by early 20th century workers were not corroborated whereas some hypotheses of relationships proposed during the last few decades were corroborated as monophyletic. Based on the phylogeny, fossil evidence, and earth history, I tentatively propose the genus Nicrophorus radiated in Asia during the Oligocene.* ^ *This dissertation is compound (contains both a paper copy and CD as part of the dissertation). The CD requires the following system application: Adobe Acrobat.^