Tribolium belongs to the Coleopterans which are the species richest order on earth. The Coleopterans constitute almost 25% of all known types of animal life-forms and represent about 40% of all described insect species (~ 400,000 species). They are found in all major habitats and have adapted to almost every kind of diet.
Tribolium castaneum has emerged as an attractive insect model organism, second only to Drosophila. There is interest from different points of view to further develop this model and get a better understanding of its development. First, Tribolium is a major pest all over the world, feeding on cereal products (from stored grains to finished baked goods), oilseeds, starchy materials, beans, peas, spices, dried plant roots, fruit, yeast, chocolate. Tribolium strains have developed resistance to almost all kinds of insecticides. Second, Tribolium larvae exhibit a complete insect body plan, with well-developed head appendages and thoracic legs, in contrast to the legless Drosophila larva that has an involuted head and strongly reduced head structures. Third, unlike Drosophila, Tribolium follows the short-germ mode of embryogenesis, developing its trunk segments sequentially in anterior to posterior progression. This mode of development is thought to be ancestral for insects, and analogous to annelid and vertebrate segmentation, where segments/somites are added sequentially in an anterior to posterior manner. The genetic techniques available in this species (see below), its short life cycle, ease of culture in the lab and all-year-round availability of embryos render Tribolium an attractive model.