The soldier beetles (Cantharidae) are relatively soft-bodied, straight-sided beetles. They are cosmopolitan in distribution. One of the first described species has a color pattern reminiscent of the red coats of early British soldiers, hence the common name. They are also known commonly as leatherwings because of their soft elytra.
Historically, these beetles were placed in a superfamily "Cantharoidea", which has been subsumed by the superfamily Elateroidea; the name is still sometimes used as a rankless grouping, including the families Cantharidae, Drilidae, Lampyridae, Lycidae, Omalisidae, Omethidae (which includes Telegeusidae), Phengodidae, and Rhagophthalmidae.
Five subfamilies are normally accepted:
- Afronycha Wittmer, 1949 - central-southern Africa
- Asilis Broun, 1893 - New Zealand
- Dysmorphocerus Solier, 1849
- Geigyella Wittmer, 1972 - New Guinea
- Heteromastix Boheman, 1858 - Australia
- Neoontelus Wittmer, 1972 - New Zealand
- Oontelus Solier, 1849 - S. America
- Plectonotum Gorham, 1891 - Americas
- tribe Malchinini
- Macrocerus Motschulsky, 1845 - Europe (synonym Malchinus)
- tribe Malthinini
- tribe Malthodini
Large males of the soldier beetle exercise choice for larger females. Body size correlates with the abilities of males to secure females, and of females to evade males.
- Phillips, C., et al. Leatherwing (Soldier) Beetles. Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech and Virginia State University. 2013.
- McLain, Denson K.; Pratt, Ann E.; Shure, Donald J. (June 2015). "Size dependence of courtship effort may promote male choice and strong assortative mating in soldier beetles". Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology. 69 (6): 883–894. doi:10.1007/s00265-015-1900-6. ISSN 0340-5443.
- Delta key
- Keys for the identification of British Cantharidae
- Media related to Cantharidae at Wikimedia Commons
- Data related to Cantharidae at Wikispecies