A Study of the Population Ecology of the Tenebrionid beetle Phaleria acuminata from Sandy Beaches in the Maltese Islands  

Abstract Category: Science
Course / Degree: B.Sc. (Hons)
Institution / University: University of Malta, Malta
Published in: 2003

Thesis Abstract / Summary:

The tenebrionid beetle Phaleria acuminata is one of the most common macro-invertebrates in the upper reaches of the dry zone of local sandy beaches. Samples, consisting of pitfall trap collections made every three months during the period October 2001 to March 2003 were studied. The beaches sampled were Xatt l-Ahmar and Ramla l-Hamra in Gozo, and Golden Bay and White Tower Bay in Malta. Ramla l-Hamra and Golden Bay are very popular beaches, with Golden Bay being especially subject to intense human pressure at all times of the day all year round. White Tower Bay is a small beach under relatively high seasonal pressure from human activities. Xatt l-Ahmar is a small, almost unknown beach in the southeast of Gozo.

Individuals of Phaleria acuminata were separated out from the samples, sexed and measured, and the reproductive state of females was determined in order to study the population dynamics of this species on local beaches. A total of 2006 individuals were measured and sexed. Observations regarding morphology were also made, and some effort was directed towards quantifying the variation in the species. Live individuals were collected from Golden Bay and observations were made on their behaviour in the laboratory. Simple experiments and general observations focused on features such as activity, burrowing, feeding, mating and microhabitat selection.

Phaleria acuminata seems to be sensitive to sand microclimate and does not appear to be much affected by human influence. Populations are extremely high in summer, which is also the peak time for human activity. The populations on each beach show the same phenology, characterised by a sudden drop in population numbers from summer to autumn. Females are reproductive all throughout the year, but the highest abundance of females in reproductive condition on each beach was recorded in spring and summer. The beetles burrow into the sand in the upper reaches of the beach during the day, avoiding the high temperature and low relative humidity typical of this environment, but emerge to forage at night, when they range widely over the beach. They are normally solitary animals but tend to aggregate where high-density patches of organic matter occur. Their detritus-feeding behaviour contributes towards the cycling of nutrients in the otherwise nutrient-poor sandy beach environment.

Thesis Keywords/Search Tags:
Phaleria acuminata, population ecology, sandy beaches, Maltese Islands

This Thesis Abstract may be cited as follows:
Borg J. (2003), A Study of the Population Ecology of the Tenebrionid beetle Phaleria acuminata from Sandy Beaches in the Maltese Islands. Unpublished B.Sc(Hons) dissertation, University of Malta

Submission Details: Thesis Abstract submitted by Joanna Borg from Malta on 24-Sep-2003 20:36.
Abstract has been viewed 2542 times (since 7 Mar 2010).

Joanna Borg Contact Details: Email: joanna.borg@gmail.com

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