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Eudicella gralli
Range:  central equatorial Africa, principally Zaire 
Size:  25 - 40 mm 

Eudicella is a cetoniine genus endemic to the African tropics, and there are many different species.  Eudicella gralli is among the largest of them, and is one of the most brilliantly colored of all African beetles.  The pronotal shield is of an iridescent, bright green colour which changes when viewed from different angles.  Eudicellas are forest specialists, and their larvae are found in accumulations of composting plant materials, such as leaf litter and rotting wood.  Eudicella usually adapts well to life in terraria, and colonies have been maintained for many years by insect zoos, museums and hobbyists around the world.

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A pair of E. gralli.  Note the iridescent qualities of this insect's exoskeletal armor.  As is the case with the famous Morpho butterflies of South America, the coloration of these beetles is structural, rather than the result of pigment.  Even in death, metallic beetles retain much of their magnificent coloration.   However, they are never again quite as brilliant as when the insect was alive.  The collecting of preserved insects has long been a hobby of many people, but seeing the living animals, especially when one can witness them undergo their entire life cycle, is certainly a far more interesting experience.

Photo courtesy of Roman Kocina.

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Eudicella gralli (pair) - Image  Roman Kocina

 
Eudicella gralli (male) - Image  Roman Kocina
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A close-up photo of the same male pictured above.  The splayed-leg stance that he is exhibiting is a defensive posture.  Eudicellas have a tendency to do this whenever disturbed or picked up.  Possibly, this behavior has evolved as a means of simply making the beetle look larger and more menacing to predators.  Often, when sitting on a branch or twig, a Eudicella will raise only the forelegs in the air, using the 2nd and 3rd pairs to maintain a foothold.

Photo courtesy of Roman Kocina.

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At right, two rival males face each other.  E. gralli males do not engage in the lengthy, potentially dangerous battles typical of many rhinoceros, or "dynastine" scarabs, and it is possible to keep many males together in the same enclosure.  Only the males have the characteristic bifurcated horn.  The female has a shovel-shaped process on the clypeus, which is useful in burrowing.
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Eudicella gralli (males) - Image  S. Jacobus

 
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