Working Group on Iberian Lucanidae (GTLI)

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Lucanidae (Coleoptera) are a group of xylophagous or saproxylophagous beetles with more than 1500 species all over the world. It includes 18 species in Europe (Baraud, 1993; Muret & Drumont, 1999), from which nine (Table 1.1) are present in the Iberian peninsula (López-Colón, 2000). Platycerus spinifer is an endemism from the Iberian peninsula and southern France, while Pseudolucanus barbarossa is restricted to the Iberian peninsula and North of Africa.

Table 1.1. Species of the family Lucanidae in the Iberian peninsula. Classification follows López-Colón (2000).

Subfamilia Aesalinae
Aesalus scarabaeoides (Panzer) Fig. 1.1

Subfamilia Sindesinae
Sinodendron cylindricum (Linneo) Fig. 1.2
Ceruchus chrysomelinus (Hochenwarth) Fig. 1.3

Subfamilia Lucaninae
Platycerus spinifer Schaufuss Fig. 1.4
Platycerus caraboides (Linneo) Fig. 1.5
Platycerus caprea (De Geer) Fig. 1.6
Dorcus parallelepipedus (Linneo) Fig. 1.7
Lucanus cervus (Linneo) Fig. 1.8
Pseudolucanus barbarossa (Fabricius) Fig. 1.9

Iberian genera of Lucanidae can be easily recognized with naked eye after a little training and death of individuals is not needed. However, the identification of Platycerus species is complicate and a detailed study of each individual, including its genitalia, is necessary. There are several determination keys for Iberian Lucanidae (Báguena Corella, 1967; Español, 1973; Español & Bellés, 1982; López-Colón, 2000). Here, a determination key for imagoes (only in Spanish) by López-Colón (2000) is reproduced with the permission of the author and of the editor of Fauna Ibérica. A simpler, pictorical key (only in Spanish) adapted from Klausnitzer (1995) can also be utilised. An overview of the Iberian lucanids can be gotten by means of this "family picture" in which all nne genera, and sometimes males and females, are included. For a determination key of European Lucanidae, see Baraud (1993) (the key is in French).

Larvae can also be identified, at least to genus. Here, a determination key for larvae modified from López-Colón (2000) and Franciscolo (1997) is provided (only in Spanish).


(1) Platycerus species are difficult to distinguish and a careful study is recommended, preferently of the genitalia. Problems in distinguish between P. spinifer and P. caraboides are relatively frequent, particularly in the NE sector of the Iberian peninsula, where a contact zone between both species occurs. In that zone, P. spinifer not always shows all the external diagnostic traits typical from the species; we strongly recommend to always rely on the genitalia for identification.

The other Iberian Lucanidae species are relatively easy to identify by eye. However, we have noticed some identification mistakes, which are detailed below and that can be easily avoided:

(2) Females of Lucanus cervus are easily mistaken with those of Pseudolucanus barbarossa. There are several diagnostic traits and their observation can be done on the alive animals. To avoid misidentifications, a poster with differences between Lucanus and Pseudolucanus is provided (only in Spanish).

(3) Males and females of the Lesser Stag Beetle Dorcus parallelepipedus are also occasionally misidentified as females of Lucanus cervus. Notice that the Lesser Stag Beetle has a modest size (2-2,5 cm) smaller that that of Lucanus cervus females (about 3 cm). In addition, Lesser Stag Beetle antennae had only 3 lamelae at the tip, and not 4-5 as in L. cervus. The shape of antenna's tip (the club) also differs; it is clearly comb-like only in L. cervus. Body shape is different in D. parallelepipedus compared to L. cervus: D. parallelepipedus is more gracile, flatter, with the head more pressed against the pronote, with a more marked torax-abdomen separation...

(4) The Rhynoceros Beetle Oryctes nasicornis is sometimes confounded with the Stag Beetle. Both species are large, dark and with "horns". Otherwise, though, their resemblance is only superficial. The Rhynoceros Beetle, as its name shows, has a single central horn (just like rhynos) coming out from the pronote... not enlarged mandibles as in the Stag Beetle. Female Rhynoceros Beetles lack the horn, but even so does not resemble a female Stag Beetle: body of the former is more robust, higher, with shorter legs and, very important, it shows a rudiment of the horn in the pronote, including the pronotal hollow of male Rhynoceros Beetles. Stag Beetles (both males and females), on the contrary, are flatter, with longer legs (ending in two very conspicuous claws) and lack any pronotal hollow.

Here is a leaflet showing some beetles that can be mistaken for the Stag Beetle in Britain

(5) Some dark beetles having pronotal horns and middle body size have been misidentified as Sinodendron cylindricum. One of them is Copris lunaris. C. lunaris is rounder, not cylindric, and has more conspicuous elytral marks. In addition, it is a coprophagous beetle (it feeds on faeces) and it has no interest in dead wood.

(6) In general, when facing a middle-sized, dark, shiny beetle with some kind of appendix or big mandlibles, one should be careful and not consider it automatically as a lucanid beetle. An important trait to consider are antennae; check they are lucanid-like (see the key and the pictures above), i.e., often making an angle and ending in a club... Aware of carabid and scarabaeid beetles; do not mix them with lucanid beetles.

No one should feel intimidated by these cautionary remarks. To identify Iberian Lucanidae is not that difficult. A little practice and the help of the keys and figures provided above allow a straightforward identification of all the species.


Báguena Corella, L. 1967. Scarabaeoidea de la fauna ibero-balear y pirenáica. Instituto Español de Entomología (CSIC), Madrid.

Baraud, J. 1993. Les coléoptères Lucanoidea de l'Europe et du Nord de l'Afrique. Bull. mens. Soc. linn. Lyon 62: 42-64.

Español, F. 1973. Entomofauna forestal española: fam. Lucanidae (Col. Scarabaeoidea). P. Inst. Biol. Apl. 54: 99-111.

Español, F. & Bellés, X. 1982. Noticia de la presencia de Aesalus scarabaeoides (Panzer) (Col. Lucanidae) en España y actualización de la clave de lucánidos ibéricos. Bol. Est. Cent. Ecología 11 (22): 71-75.

Franciscolo, M. E. 1997. Fauna d’Italia. Coleoptera Lucanidae. Edizioni Calderini, Bolonia.

Klausnitzer, B. Die Hirschkäfer. 2ª ed. Westarp Wissenchaften, Magdeburgo.

López-Colón, J. I. 2000. Familia Lucanidae. En: Coleoptera, Scarabaeoidea I. Martín-Piera, F. & López-Colón, J. I., 2000. Fauna Ibérica, vol. 14. Ramos, M. A. et al. (eds.). Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales. CSIC. Madrid.

Muret, P. & Drumont, A. 1999. Description d'une nouvelle espece de Dorcus Macleay, endemique de Chypre (Coleoptera, Scarabaeoidea, Lucanidae). Lambillionea 99: 484-488.

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Last updated: 24 November 2005