Journal of Insect Conservation

, Volume 23, Issue 5–6, pp 957–965 | Cite as

Distribution, abundance, and ecology of the threatened Gibson’s Big Sand Tiger Beetle (Cicindela formosa gibsoni Brown) in the Elbow Sand Hills of Saskatchewan

  • Aaron J. BellEmail author
  • Kiara S. Calladine
  • Iain D. Phillips


Gibson’s Big Sand tiger beetle, Cicindela formosa gibsoni Brown, occurs primarily in the Saskatchewan sand hills and was recently listed as threatened in Canada due to habitat loss caused by dune stabilization. Herein, we report on a 3-year population study initiated in 2016 to better understand the distribution, abundance, and ecology of C. f. gibsoni in the Elbow Sand Hills, a large active dune complex in southern Saskatchewan. Estimated adult population size for the dune complex varied from a low of 1106 (95% confidence interval (CI) 975–1237) to a high of 1474 (CI 1350–1598), possibly due to inter-annual variation in May–June rainfall. Adult abundance varied substantially between interdunal swales (0–137 individuals), with the highest numbers occurring in sparsely-vegetated habitats on the stoss side of the dune complex where the rate of encroachment by vegetation is highest. Approximately a third of the total population is concentrated within a relatively small area (~ 6 ha) in the northwestern region of the dune complex, although the specific cause for this localized distribution is not clear. Our findings suggest that the distribution of C. f. gibsoni within the dune complex is not limited by prey availability or larval habitat quality but is instead related to the amount of sparsely-vegetated habitat. We hypothesize that sparsely-vegetated areas allow beetles to shuttle between exposed and shaded microhabitats, thereby assisting in thermoregulation and maintenance of high body temperatures that are optimal for foraging.


Coleoptera Dune stabilization Maxithermal Population size Sand dunes Temperature 



We are fortunate to have had support from many people throughout this study. We thank J. Houston, S. Srayko, N. Moen, D. McElligot, R. Robinson, J. Helfrick, E. McVittie, W. Fincham, L. Craig-Moore, B. Gardner, E. Putz, N. Vanerleest, and S. Marshall for their assistance chasing tigers. J. Acorn provided endless encouragement, guidance throughout this project, and helpful suggestions on the manuscript. Special thanks to C. Gowan and B. Knisley for their knowledge, expertise in conducting population studies of tiger beetles, and comments that improved the manuscript. Logistical support for this project was provided by Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation, J. Bell, D. Bell, and Douglas Provincial Park staff. Funding for this project was provided by the Young Prairie Stewardship Grant to AJB, AquaTax Consulting, and the Canada Summer Work program. Permission to conduct this study was provided by the Ministry of Environment (Permit Number: 17FW205) and the Ministry of Parks, Culture and Sport.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

All authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

10841_2019_183_MOESM1_ESM.tif (1 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (TIFF 1027 kb)
10841_2019_183_MOESM2_ESM.docx (13 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (DOCX 13 kb)


  1. Acorn JH (1991) Habitat associations, adult life histories, and species interactions among sand dune tiger beetles in the southern Canadian Prairies (Coleoptera: Cicindelidae). Cicindela 23:17–48Google Scholar
  2. Acorn JH (1992) The historical development of geographic color variation among dune Cicindela in western Canada. In: Noonan GE, Ball GE, Stork NE (eds) The biogeography of ground beetles of mountains and islands. Intercept Press, Andover, p 256Google Scholar
  3. Acorn JH (2011) Sand hill arthropods in grasslands. In: Floate KD (ed) Arthropods of Canadian grasslands (volume 2): inhabitants of a changing landscape. Biological Survey of Canada, Ottawa, pp 25–43Google Scholar
  4. Anderson DR, Burnham KP, Thompson WL (2000) Null hypothesis testing: problems, prevalence, and an alternative. J Wildl Manage 64:912–923CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Cardosa P, Erwin TL, Borges PAV, New TR (2011) The seven impediments in invertebrate conservation and how to overcome them. Biol Conserv 144:2647–2655CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. COSEWIC (2006) Committee on the status of endangered wildlife in Canada’s assessment and status report on the gold-edged gem Schinia avemensis in Canada. COSEWIC, OttawaGoogle Scholar
  7. COSEWIC (2007a) Committee on the status of endangered wildlife in Canada’s assessment and status report on the pale yellow dune moth Copablepharon grandis in Canada. COSEWIC, OttawaGoogle Scholar
  8. COSEWIC (2007b) Committee on the status of endangered wildlife in Canada’s assessment and status report on the dusky dune moth Copablepharon longipenne in Canada. COSEWIC, OttawaGoogle Scholar
  9. COSEWIC (2012) Committee on the status of endangered wildlife in Canada’s assessment and status report on the Gibson’s Big Sand Tiger Beetle Cicindela formosa gibsoni in Canada. COSEWIC, OttawaGoogle Scholar
  10. COSEWIC (2014) Committee on the status of endangered wildlife in Canada’s assessment and status report on the Gypsy Cuckoo Bumble Bee Bombus bohemicus in Canada. COSEWIC, OttawaGoogle Scholar
  11. Dreisig H (1980) Daily activity, thermoregulation, and water loss in the tiger beetle Cicindela hybrida. Oecologia 44:376–389CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Dreisig H (1984) Control of body temperature in shuttling ectotherms. J Therm Biol 9:229–233CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Dreisig H (1985) A time budget model of thermoregulation in shuttling ectotherms. J Arid Environ 8:191–205Google Scholar
  14. Dyke AS, Moore A, Robertson L (2003) Deglaciation of North America. Open File 1574, Geological Survey of Canada, Ottawa, OntarioGoogle Scholar
  15. Freitag RP (1999) Catalogue of the tiger beetles of Canada and the United States. National Research Council Research Press, OttawaGoogle Scholar
  16. Gaumer GC (1977) The variation and taxonomy of Cicindela formosa Say (Coleoptera: Cicindelidae). Dissertation, Texas A & M UniversityGoogle Scholar
  17. Glasier JRN, Acorn JH, Nielsen SE, Proctor H (2013) Ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) of Alberta: a key to species based primarily on the worker caste. Can J Arthropod Identif. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Government of Canada (2018) Species at risk act: statutory instruments 2018. Can Gaz Part II 152:126–337Google Scholar
  19. Gowan C, Knisley CB (2014) Distribution, abundance and conservation of the highly endemic Coral Pink Sand Dune tiger beetle, Cicindela albissima Rumpp. Biodiversity 15:119–129CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Hadley NF, Savill A, Schultz TD (1992) Coloration and its thermal consequences in the New Zealand tiger beetle Neocicindela perhispida. J Therm Biol 17:55–61CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Hooper RR (1969) A review of Saskatchewan tiger beetles. Cicindela 1:1Google Scholar
  22. Hugenholtz CH, Wolfe SA (2005) Biogeomorphic model of dunefield activation and stabilization on the northern Great Plains. Geomorphology 70:53–70CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Knisley CB (2011) Anthropogenic disturbances and rare tiger beetle habitats: benefits, risks, and implications for conservation. Terr Arthropod Rev 4:41–61CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Knisley CB, Brzoska D (2018) Habitat, distribution, biology, and conservation of the Miami tiger beetle, Cicindela floridana (Cartwright) (Coleoptera: Carabidae: Cicindelinae). Coleopts Bull 72:1–8CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Knisley CB, Gowan C (2009) Biological and conservation studies of the Coral Pink Sand Dunes tiger beetle, Cicindela albissima year 2008 Final Report. Bureau of Land Management, Utah State Office, Salt Lake CityCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Knisley CB, Hill JM (2001) Biology and conservation of the Coral Pink Sand Dunes tiger beetle, Cicindela limbata albissima Rumpp. West N Am Nat 61:381–394Google Scholar
  27. Knisley CB, Schultz TD (1990) Seasonal activity and thermoregulatory behavior of Cicindela patruela (Coleoptera: Cicindelidae). Ann Entomol Soc Am 83:911–915CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Knisley CB, Kippenhan M, Brzoska D (2014) Conservation status of United States tiger beetles. Terr Arthropod Rev 7:93–145CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Knisley CB, Drummond M, McCann J (2016) Population trends of the Northeastern Beach tiger beetle, Cicindela dorsalis dorsalis Say (Coleoptera: Carabidae: Cicindelinae) in Virginia and Maryland, 1980s through 2014. Coleopts Bull 70:255–271CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Knisley CB, Gowan C, Fenster MS (2017) Effects of off-highway vehicles on sandy habitat critical to survival of a rare beetle. Insect Conserv Divers. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Knisley CB, Gowan C, Wirth C (2018) Effects of soil moisture, vegetation and food on adult activity, oviposition and larval development in the tiger beetle, Cicindela albissima, Rumpp. J Insect Conserv 22:443–449CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Otis DL, Burnham KP, White GC, Anderson DR (1978) Statistical inference from capture data on closed animal populations. Wildl Monogr 62:3–135Google Scholar
  33. Pearson DL, Knisley CB (1985) Evidence for food as a limiting resource in the life cycle of tiger beetles (Coleoptera: Cicindelidae). Oikos 45:161–168CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Pearson DL, Knisley CB, Duran DP, Krazilek CJ (2015) A field guide to the tiger beetles of the United States and Canada. Identification, natural history, and distribution of the Cicindelinae, Second edition. Oxford University Press, New York, pp viii + 251Google Scholar
  35. Schultz TD, Hadley NF (1987) Structural colors of tiger beetles and their role in heat transfer through the integument. Physiol Zool 60:737–745CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Scott JS (1971) Surficial geology of the Rosetown map area. Saskatchewan (72O). Geological Survey of Canada Bulletin 534, Ottawa, ONGoogle Scholar
  37. R Core Team (2013) R: a language and environment for statistical computing. R foundation for Statistical Computing, Vienna.
  38. White GC, Anderson DR, Burnham KP, Otis DL (1982) Capture-recapture and removal methods for sampling closed populations. Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los AlamosGoogle Scholar
  39. Wolfe SA (2010) An inventory of active sand dunes and blowouts in the Prairie Provinces, Canada. Geological Survey of Canada Open File 6680, p 21Google Scholar
  40. Wolfe SA, Hugenholtz CH, Evan CP, Huntley DJ, Ollerhead J (2007) Potential aboriginal-occupation-induced dune activity, Elbow Sand Hills, northern Great Plains, Canada. Great Plains Res 17:173–192Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of BiologyUniversity of SaskatchewanSaskatoonCanada
  2. 2.Troutreach Saskatchewan, Saskatchewan Wildlife FederationMoose JawCanada
  3. 3.Water Quality and Habitat Assessment ServicesWater Security Agency of SaskatchewanSaskatoonCanada

Personalised recommendations