Classification Status [ Authors: Brett Ratcliffe, M.J.Paulsen ]
The family Lucanidae has long been considered one of the most primitive groups in the Scarabaeoidea (Crowson 1967; Howden 1982; Ritcher 1966), and scarabaeoid classifications and evolutionary hypotheses have generally regarded the Lucanidae as basal to all scarabaeoids (Howden 1982; Iablokoff-Khnzorian 1977; Lawrence and Newton 1995). However, based on comparison with "primitive" scarabaeoid groups, Scholtz et al. (1994) hypothesized that the scarabaeoid family Glaresidae, rather than the Lucanidae, is the most primitive scarabaeoid. According to this hypothesis, the Lucanidae is a member of a clade that includes the Passalidae, Diphyllostomatidae, Glaphyridae, Trogidae, Pleocomidae, and Bolboceratinae (Geotrupidae). More recent phylogenetic analyses cast doubt on both of these hypotheses, and place Lucanidae in an intermediate clade with Glaresidae and Trogidae (Smith et al. 2006).
Prior to the taxonomic elevation of the genus Diphyllostoma to the family Diphyllostomatidae (Holloway 1972), the Lucanidae was hypothesized to be most closely related to the Passalidae (Howden 1982). Based on shared characters, it is now thought that the Lucanidae is most closely related to the Diphyllostomatidae (Caveney 1986; Browne and Scholtz 1995).
The world Lucanidae (about 1500 species) have been treated in checklists by Benesh (1960) and Maes (1992) and in illustrated catalogs by Didier and Seguy (1953),and Mizunuma and Nagai (1994), and Fujita (2010). The latter is spectacular for its colored plates of the world stag beetle fauna, however it contains numerous errors with respect to the indentification of New World stag beetles. Benesh (1960) recognized eight subfamilies, four of which occurred in the United States. Howden and Lawrence (1974) and Kikuta (1986) proposed significant changes of genera within subfamilies. Based on the work of Holloway (1960, 1968, 1969), the most recent subfamilial classification is followed here, with three subfamilies now recognized as occurring in North America: Aesalinae, Syndesinae, and Lucaninae. One member of the remaining lucanid subfamily, Lampriminae, occurs in South America. The subfamily Penichrolucaninae was formerly used for two genera of aberrant termitophilous lucanids, but these are now considered to be derived members of Lucaninae, tribe Figulini (Bartolozzi 1989).