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             Wednesday September 15, 2010 

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Rhinoceros beetle, Megasoma elephas
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The Chaa Creek Natural History Centre, situated at the top of the hill behind the cottages, takes students and visitors along a fascinating time line, which begins with prehistoric land formation through to the shifting of the continents. Visitors are able to see the movement of life in Belize through the ages; from Mayan temples in the steaming jungle to modern day traditional healers. On one hand we provide a comprehensive introduction to the history and geography of Belize while on the other we provide visual displays of archaeological artifacts, butterflies, moths, insects and amphibians that capture the curiosity of young children, students and scientists alike.
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Rhinoceros or elephant beetle, Megasoma elephas, in the Chaa Creek Natural History Centre

Elephant Beetles, Megasoma elephas, are part of the Scarabaeidae family and the subfamily Dynastinae. They are classified with the Neotropical rhinoceros beetles.

Elephant beetles are black in color and covered with a coat of fine microscopic hairs. The hairs grow particularly thick on the beetle's elytra. The hairs give the beetle's body a yellowish color. Males have two horns protruding from the head and another from the prothorax. Females have no horns. The horns are used for defense in competition among males for food and mates.

Elephant Beetle larvae develop in large decaying logs and take up to three years to develop into adult beetles, depending upon the subspecies. The female Elephant Beetle lays her eggs inside the decaying log or in the ground. Some weeks after that (usually 3) the eggs hatch into C-shaped larvae, white grubs with brown heads and six legs. The larval stage lasts around 29 weeks, during which time the grubs consume organic matter. The third and last stage, the pupal stage, lasts around 5 weeks at a temperature of 26 degrees Celsius. The life span of an adult Elephant Beetle is around one to three months.

For their diet, Elephant Beetles eat the sap of particular trees and ripened fallen fruits such as pineapples. They also eat longan, lychee fruit, and bark from certain trees like the poinciana.

Elephant Beetles live in rainforests and are mainly active during the night. They are able to maintain high body temperatures with temperature decrease.[1] Elephant Beetle population has been depleted by the destruction of the rainforests, which has reduced their grounds for mating.

Photograph by Marty Casado              

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