The spitfire beetle is a large predatory beetle, about 4 inches (10 centimeters) long, that lives in the Antarctic Tropical Rainforest, 100 Million AD.
The falconfly is not the only insect enemy of flutterbirds. The high oxygen concentration of the atmosphere has meant that insects are taking over from vertebrates as the dominant terrestrial animals. There are others, large and deadly, who are making the most of their time at the top of the food chain.
The spitfire beetle is one such insect inheritor of Earth. Apart from their bright red and yellow coloring, spitfire beetles resemble a typical Quaternary beetle, with a head, thorax, diaphanous underwings and elytra (hard forewings). Individually, they are unremarkable. Collectively, they are capable of an ingenious form of ambush hunting.
The carnivorous spitfire beetles spend most of their lives in groups of four. They position themselves on the trunk of a spitfire tree, standing head to head in a cross formation. Spreading their wings, they are suddenly almost indistinguishable from the flowers of the tree itself. In this formation, the heads and thoraxes look like the flower's center, the antennae resemble the stamens, and the brightly-colored elytra the petals.
Motionless, the spitfire beetles wait, mimicking the flowers of the spitfire tree. Their intended prey is a spitfire bird, which can be hovering about the tree and collecting chemicals. As it moves in, the beetles leap into action. Grasshopper-like hind legs propel the attack, and grappling-hooked claws on the forelegs crush into the bird's body. The carcass of the spitfire bird is then consumed by all four spitfire beetles. Since spitfire birds visit spitfire flowers only to refuel their acid, the beetles can avoid the spitfire bird's defensive spray. However, other predators such as falconflies also take advantage of this, and may steal the beetles' prey.
While such cooperation mimicry was not common in previous times, it was known. The larvae of the tortoise beetle exhibited similar behavior. These disk-shaped grubs would remain in clusters after hatching and react synchronously to anything which approached them by moving the tips of their tails upwards and mimicking the shape of a large spider. As the larvae's only predators were spiders, this proved an extremely effective form of defense and became an evolutionary success. A similar action has been performed by blister beetle larvae.