The Hispinae (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae) known from the La Selva Biological Station, Costa Rica

C. L. Staines
3302 Decker Place
Edgewater MD 21037

6 May 1997

| Genus List | Key to Tribes and Genera | Literature Cited |
The text content has all been provided by C. L. Staines, most images by Maylin Paniagua and Nelci Oconitrillo of project ALAS, a few images and page construction by J. Longino.
NEW: Hispines of the 2001 ALAS expeditions to the 1070m site on the Volcan Barva transect (click here).


The Hispinae (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae) are a group of approximately 3000 species worldwide. Currently they are placed in 170 genera and 24 tribes. According to the present classification, there are no tribes or genera common to both the Old and New Worlds.

At first glance, it might appear from the volume of hispine publications (Staines & Staines 1989, 1992) that the New World Hispinae are already well researched. However, anyone wishing to do practical identification of New World hispines would get a swift lesson in how deceiving first impressions can be. The entire literature consists of scattered species descriptions, a few biological notes, and some ecological notes. Most of the species and generic descriptions are extremely short and do not have comparative notes.

Ecologically, New World Hispinae fall into three feeding groups: leaf miners; sheath, appress or rolled-leaf feeders; and external feeders. In the Old World some species have been reported as stem borers in herbaceous or semi-ligneous plants, but this has not been reported from the New World tropics yet.

All modern authorities agree that the Hispinae are very closely related to the Cassidinae. Various more or less intermediate forms connect the two subfamilies, and the dividing line between them has been differently placed by different systematists. For example, the genus Imatidium Fabricius has been placed in both subfamilies at one time or another. Weise (1910), based on life history studies, suggested that the tribes Oediopalpini and Cephaloleiini may belong in the Cassidinae rather than the Hispinae. Barber (1946) described Cubispa and placed it in the Hispinae. Monrós (1954) argued that it was a Eumolpinae. Medvedev & Eroshkina (1988), based on larval characters and life history, transferred the tribe Notosacanthini from the Cassidinae to the Hispinae. Other tribes of questionable placement are Spilophorini, Hemisphaerotini, and Delocraniini all of which are currently placed in the Cassidinae.

The division between the Hispinae and the Cassidinae is based on general habitus and on the larvae of Hispinae being leaf miners without lateral thoracic processes and without apical furci. Cassid larvae are exophagous, have lateral thoracic processes and apical furci. However recently exophagous larvae with lateral processes and apical furci were described in the hispine tribe Leptispini (Voronova & Zajcev 1982) and leaf mining larvae without processes or apical furci in the cassid tribe Notosacanthini (Medvedev & Eroshkina 1988; Monteith 1991). In the cassid tribe Imatidiini and the hispine tribes Cephaloleiini, Arescini, and Callispini larvae are waterpenny-like, exophagous but cryptic and live in rolled or appressed leaves. Adults of all of these tribes do not have distinctive characters and can be placed in either subfamily.

Weise (1911) published the most recent key to the genera of the New World, covering the 49 genera described by that date. He also (Weise 1910) proposed the tribal classification system that is still in use. There has been little change in the higher taxonomic levels since then. Uhmann (1957, 1964) compiled the most recent New World catalog, containing 82 genera and 1391 species. Seeno & Wilcox (1982) record 83 genera from the New World. The Blackwelder (1946) and Wilcox (1975) checklists also catalog the New World hispines.

The biology of few species has been studied. Most species are not associated with a host plant or plant family. When biological information is available, it is summarized with the taxonomic information.

Page construction:

John T. Longino, The Evergreen State College, Olympia WA 98505 USA.

Date of this version: 27 February 2003.
Previous versions of this page: 21 April 1998