One of the most compelling challenges for conservation biologists is the preservation of species with restricted ranges. Carabus olympiae Sella, 1855, a ground beetle species inhabiting two small areas in the western Italian Alps, is an example of a steno-endemic and endangered insect species. Despite the fact that this species is historically well known to professional and amateur entomologists, its autecology is virtually unknown. In the present study we used pitfall traps to study habitat selection and phenology, and radiotelemetry to measure differences in movement parameters between sexes, habitats and periods. Data from pitfall trapping suggested that C. olympiae actively selects both shrubberies (alpen rose Rhododendron ferrugineum and bilberry Vaccinium myrtillus) and beech forests and avoids pastures, and that population size peaks in July. All radio-tagged individuals (n = 21) moved without a preferred direction, and were more active at night than by day. Males covered greater distances and had more tortuous trajectories than females. Distances covered in forests and alpen rose shrubberies were not significantly different, but paths in beech forests were more convoluted than in shrubberies. The movement pattern observed fits the requirements of a typical “olfactory-tactile” insect predator that looks for prey by systematically exploring its territory. Movement parameters suggested that both beech forests and alpen rose shrubberies are suitable for this species and indicated that the spatial distribution of shrubs in shrubberies can constrain trajectories. The implications for conservation are: (i) any human intervention which results in enlargement of the present coverage of pastures should be controlled; (ii) forest management may be tolerated, with the condition that alpen rose shrubberies remain or develop after tree-cutting; (iii) once a shrubbery has established, it should be preserved through appropriate management.
PUBLICATION AVAILABLE AT: http://doi.org/10.14411/eje.2008.015