Taxonomy

Olimpia’s ground beetle belongs to a large genus of predatory ground beetles containing hundreds of species found across temperate parts of the northern hemisphere.

Carabus olympiae is a very distinctive species belonging to the subgenus Chrysocarabus. It has several equally splendid close relatives found in the mountains of France, Italy and Spain.

In Britain there are 10 native species of Carabus including the well known and widespread violet ground beetle Carabus violaceus, whose wing cases and thorax are bordered with metallic purple and blue.

In Europe there are about 130 species of Carabus and in China at least 400. The various species occur in a wide variety of habitats, ranging from forests and heath-land to meadows and high mountains.

Morphology

Carabus olympiae is an elongate and elegant beetle with the following characteristics:

  • it is quite large - 28–37mm long
  • it has sharp mandibles which it uses to cut up its prey
  • it has large eyes and long sensory antennae
  • the legs are long and slender - an adaptation for running at speed
  • the thorax and head are narrower than the wing cases, which are roughened and metallic in colour - the colouration is variable but usually shades of green surrounded by golden, red or purple edges
  • the thorax and head are darker metallic purple or reddish

The metallic colours seem to change depending upon which angle you view the beetle. This is because the colours are structural rather than due to a pigment - light reflecting and being refracted from the surface, determines what colour the beetle appears to the eye.

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