The thoracic morphology of cave-dwelling and free-living ground beetles from China (Coleoptera, Carabidae, Trechinae)
External and internal thoracic structures of two carabid species (Trechini) were examined and documented with different techniques. The study has a main focus on the eyeless cave-dwelling specialist Sinaphaenops wangorum, but detailed information is also provided for a species occurring in cave entrances. The phylogenetic background of the structural features of the thoracic skeletomuscular system was addressed. The thoracic morphology of the examined species was compared to conditions observed in previously studied carabids and non-related subterranean leiodids (Staphylinoidea) in order to identify cave adaptations. Main thoracic character complexes linked with cavernicolous habits in Trechini are elongation of the pro- and mesothorax and the legs, and a complete and irreversible reduction of the flight apparatus. The lost flight capacity is linked with a far reaching modification of skeletal elements of the metathorax including a strongly shortened and simplified metanotum, a shortened metaventrite, and completely reduced wings and sclerites of the wing base. The elongate prothorax together with the long and slender head and elongated legs distinctly increases the activity range in the subterranean lightless environment, which likely facilitates foraging of the carnivorous beetles. Some of the observed features like wing loss and elongation of the anterior thorax and legs are also found in some cave-dwelling Leiodidae (Leptodirini), whereas some other subterranean members of the staphylinoid family have a compact body and legs of normal length. In contrast to the predaceous Trechini, Leptodirini are scavengers.