Temporal range: Oligocene–Recent
Ptiliidae is a family of very tiny beetles with a cosmopolitan distribution. This family contains the smallest of all beetles, with a length when fully grown of 0.3–4.0 millimetres (0.01–0.16 in). The weight is approximately 0.4 milligrams. They are colloquially called featherwing beetles, because the hindwings are narrow and feathery. The eggs are very large in comparison to the adult female (maybe half the length) so only one egg at a time can be developed and laid. Parthenogenesis is exhibited by several species.
The small size has forced many species to sacrifice some of their anatomy, like the heart, crop and gizzard. While the exoskeleton and respiration system of the insects seems to be the major limiting factors regarding how large they can get, the limit for how small they can become appears to be related to the space required for their nervous and reproductive systems.
There are around 600 described species in 80 genera, but large numbers of specimens in collections await description and the true number of species is likely to be much higher than this. Fossil ptiliids have been recorded from the Oligocene, roughly 30 million years ago. The family is divided into 3 subfamilies:
- Henry S. Dybas (2000). "Featherwing beetles". DPI Entomology Circular. University of Florida. EENY-177. Retrieved October 22, 2013.
- Christopher G. Mayka & Mikael Sörensson (2010). "Featherwing beetles (Coleoptera: Ptiliidae)". In Donald F. McAlpine & Ian M. Smith. Assessment of Species Diversity in the Atlantic Maritime Ecozone. NRC Research Press. pp. 433–438. ISBN 9780660198354.
- "Insects: Beetle". San Diego Zoo. 2008. Retrieved July 20, 2008.
- World’s Smallest Insect Pays a Hefty Price for its Size
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