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Mordella aculeata MHNT Profil.jpg
Mordella aculeata; note the "pintail"
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Coleoptera
Superfamily: Tenebrionoidea
Family: Mordellidae
Latreille, 1802


The Mordellidae are a family of beetles commonly known as tumbling flower beetles for the typical irregular movements they make when escaping predators, or as pintail beetles due to their abdominal tip which aids them in performing these tumbling movements. Worldwide, there are about 1500 species.[1]

The apparently tumbling movements are composed of a series of very rapid separate jumps (each jump of a duration of approximately 80 ms). They result from the beetle's efforts to get itself back into take-off position for flight when it has been in either lateral or dorsal position. Each individual jump should be considered as an extended rotation, performed by one leg of the third leg pair (metapodium). Depending on whether the left or the right metapodium is used as the leg that provides the leverage for take-off, change occurs in the direction of the jump. The energy for propulsion varies with the beetle's immediate muscle work, so that jump lengths and heights vary, with rotation frequencies recorded up to 48 per second (Mordellochroa abdominalis) around the gravitation centre of the body's longitudinal axis. Additional revolving around the transverse axis (at lower frequency) effects spiralling summersaults that are perceived as tumbling. The pintail (pygidium) is of no significance for the jump. Technically similar jumps, though less powerful, can be observed in family Melandryidae (=Serropalpidae) (genus Orchesia) and family Scraptiidae (genus Anaspis). As both these groups of beetles are closely related to family Mordellidae, it may be assumed that it is due to their common phylogenetic roots that they have the same capacity of this tumbling form of locomotion. It can, therefore, not be ascribed specifically to Mordellidae.[2]


Larva of Mordellistena sp. (Mordellinae: Mordellistenini) larva inside a goldenrod gall made by the fly Eurosta solidaginis
Adult female Tolidopalpus nitidicoma (Mordellinae: Mordellistenini) from side

This family has two living subfamiliesMordellinae and Ctenidiinae – and a prehistoric one known only from fossils (Praemordellinae).[3] Another fossil genus, Liaoximordella, was previously treated as distinct monotypic family Liaoximordellidae, but is now regarded as very primitive and probably basal member of the Mordellidae.

FAMILY Mordellidae Latreille, 1802


  1. ^ Michael A. Ivie (2002). "Mordellidae". In Ross H. Arnett & Michael Charles Thomas. Polyphaga: Scarabaeoidea through Curculionoidea. American Beetles 2. CRC Press. ISBN 978-0-8493-0954-0. 
  2. ^ Michael Reuter (1995). "Studies on the functional morphology of the jump in tumbling-flower beetles (Mordellidae, Coleoptera)". Acta Biologica Benrodis 7: 99–133(1995). 
  3. ^ Mordellidae Species List at Joel Hallan’s Biology Catalog. Texas A&M University. Retrieved on 17 May 2012.
  4. ^ Horák, Jan; Farkac, Jan; Nakládal, Oto (2012). "Mordellidae (Coleoptera) from Socotra Island" (PDF). Acta Entomologica Musei Nationalis Pragae (Musei Nationalis Pragae) 52 ((supplementum 2)): 253–268. ISSN 0374-1036. Retrieved 5 February 2013. 

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