The "tortoise beetles" or Cassidinae are a subfamily of leaf beetles (Chrysomelidae) characterized by
Larvae typically carry a shield fashioned of exuviae and fecal deposits supported by a furca on the 8th abdominal segment.
Adults and larvae feed externally on foliage of the same host plant species.
- 1) elytra extending well beyond the lateral margin of the body
- 2) anterior surface of the head projecting down and backward and
- 3) a pronotum partially or wholly covering the head.
Tortoise beetles are found on all the vegetated continents, with approximately
15 species occuring in America north of Mexico. Species are diverse and easily
seen on morningglory (Convolvulaceae) and nightshade (Solanaceae).
Resplendent, metallic-gold elytra (hard, forewings) characterize Charidotella, Cassida, and Deloyala species.
Cassidine species richness increases steadily as one approaches the Equator
with Nicaragua containing approximately 100 species,
Costa Rica 135 species, Panama 150 species and Colombia over 220 species.
The greatest number of Cassidinae species are associated with host plants in the Convolvulaceae,
while other species occur on Solanaceae, Bignoniaceae, Boraginaceae and Asteraceae.
Other species have recently been found on Rubiaceae and Verbenaceae.
A limited number of basal taxa in the tribes Hemisphaerotini, Spilophorini and
Oediopalpini are found on various monocotyledenous plant families (Arecaceae,
Heliconiaceae, Marantaceae, Bromeliadaceae and Poaceae). Generally,
Cassidinae are found in greatest numbers in open, disturbed habitats such as roadsides, treefall gaps and river banks.
However, basal taxa in the tropics may be common on understory palms, such as Chamaedorea.
Ninty percent of Panamanian species (n=100) occur on herbs, vines or lianas,
with only 10% of Cassidinae species occurring on shrub and tree species.
Links to other sites|
- Hsiao, T. and D. Windsor 1999. Historical and biological relationships among Hispinae inferred from 12S MTDNA sequence data.
pp 39-50 in Advances in Chrysomelidae Biology 1. M.L. Cox (ed.), Backhuys Publishers, Leiden, The Netherlands.
- Seeno, T. and J.A. Wilcox. 1982. Leaf Beetle Genera (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae).Entomography 1:1-221.
- Windsor, D.M., E.G. Riley and H.P. Stockwell 1992. An introduction to the biology and systematics of Panamanian tortoise
beetles (Coleoptera, Chrysomelidae Cassidinae). pp 372-391 in Insects of Panama and Mesoamerica. D. Quintero and
A. Aiello (eds.), Oxford University Press, Oxford.
Don Windsor, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Panama
Erin Moore & John Pickering, University of Georgia, Athens