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Cicindela dorsalis dorsalis, Northeastern Beach Tiger Beetle







The Coral Pink Sand Dunes (CPSD) tiger beetle is found only in the CPSD geologic formation in Kane County in southern Utah. C. albissima was first described by Normal Rumpp from specimens from the CPSD and was initially named as a subspecies, Cicindela limbata albissima. Recent analysis of mtDNA found that C. albissima is genetically distinct from the other C. limbata subspecies and warrants full species status (Morgan et al 2000). The U.S. Federal Fish and Wildlife Service currently lists the CPSD tiger beetle as its own species (USFWS 2007).

The CPSD tiger beetle has a two-year life cycle and its adult population size is directly related to the past two years’ rainfall. From 1999 to 2006, the adult population size of ranged from 558 to 2,944 individuals (USFWS 2007). Adult beetles are 11 to 15mm in size and have distinct white elytra, possibly a thermoregulatory adaptation for life in a desert environment (Romey and Knisley 2002).

C. albissima’s primary habitat is in and near interdunal swales. Interdunal swales are low-lying wetland areas between sand dunes typically dominated by herbaceous flora. The beetles do not occur in every swale, instead over 90% of the beetle’s population is found in an area of approximately 1,800 by 400m (species listing form). Interdunal swales provide a cool, moist environment that is desirable for larval development. The larvae are sit-and-wait predators, living in tunnels in and near these swales, from which they capture other insects (Romey and Knisley 2002). C. albissima is found in swales that also are habitat for Asclepias welshii (Welsh’s milkweed), a federally protected threatened plant species (USFWS 2007).

The greatest threat to the CPSD tiger beetle is off highway vehicle (OHV) use. The beetle’s primary habitat is in Utah’s CPSD State Park (estimated at >90% of the species’ population) and a small portion of the beetles are found at another site in the CPSD owned by the Federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM). OHVs are a serious threat to the CPSD tiger beetle because beetles are killed and damaged by run-overs and, maybe more importantly, OHVs destroy interdunal swales (Knisley and Hill 2001). Two-hundred and seven acres out of 2,000 acres of the CPSD State Park are closed to OHV use to provide protection for the beetles. An additional 370 acres are closed to OHVs in a second conservation area on BLM land. These restrictions are actively enforced. However, the CPSD sustained significant habitat destruction when the park was opened to OHV use in 1963 and conservation areas were not established until 1997 (USFWS 2007).

C. albissima’s listing candidacy was most recently reviewed in 2007. The CPSD tiger beetle holds a listing priority number (LPN) of eight. This means that the USFWS believes the threats are imminent and of moderate magnitude and the beetle will continue as a candidate species (USFWS). The CPSD tiger beetle has great potential to be a flagship species for dune habitats. With all of the conservation efforts already in place would be an easy addition to the ESA and would benefit from the publicity.


Hill, J.J. et. al 1994. Northeastern Beach Tiger Beetle Recovery Plan. U.S. fish and Wildlife Service, Hadley, Massachusetts

Written by: Jeff Milder : 2004

Updated: Eric Denemark 2008

Image credit: Image Credit