The Cliff tiger beetle Cylindera germanica is a rare and magnificent beast. It is one of five species of tiger beetle in the UK, and is only found on the warm, south facing soft cliffs of Dorset, Devon and the Isle of Wight.
|Fearsome predator: the Cliff tiger beetle roams the coastal 'savannah' looking for prey © Roger Key|
The Cliff tiger beetle is the cheetah of the insect world: with its long legs it speeds after prey before catching it in its large and rather fearsome jaws. The larvae are pit-predators and live in burrows in damp sand, where they lie in ambush for unsuspecting victims which are grabbed and pulled in to be eaten.
These beetles are solar-powered, which is why they are only found on south-facing cliffs in the UK. South facing cliffs with plenty of bare ground such as those on the Dorset and south Isle of Wight coasts are ideal for the beetle because they really heat up in the sun. The higher temperatures allow solar-powered species to remain active on cooler days. Many invertebrates that are restricted to soft cliffs are solar-powered (the technical term for this is 'thermophillic', or warmth-loving).
Take a look at our soft cliffs project pages to find out more.