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Coleoptera comes from the Greek koleopteros, literally "sheath-wing", from koleos meaning "sheath", and pteron, meaning "wing".

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This is slightly lower than reported for North America, a land mass of similar size with 25,160 species in 3526 genera and 129 families.

While other predictions show there could be as many as 28,000 species in North America, including those currently undescribed, a realistic estimate of the little-studied Australian beetle fauna's true diversity could vary from 80,000 to 100,000.

These elytra distinguish beetles from most other insect species, except for a few species of Hemiptera.

The beetle's exoskeleton is made up of numerous plates called sclerites, separated by thin sutures.

For example, beetles in the family Coccinellidae ("ladybirds" or "ladybugs") consume aphids, scale insects, thrips, and other plant-sucking insects that damage crops.

Species in the order Coleoptera are generally characterized by a particularly hard exoskeleton and hard forewings (elytra, singular elytron).

The adaptive radiation of angiosperms helped drive the diversification of beetles, as four of the six megadiverse families of beetles are primarily angiosperm-feeders: Curculionidae, Chrysomelidae, Scarabaeidae, and Cerambycidae.

However, even without the phytophagous groups, lineages of predators, scavengers, and fungivores are tremendously successful.

Patterns of beetle diversity can be used to illustrate factors that have led to the success of the group as a whole.

Based on estimates for all 165 families, more than 358,000 species of beetles have been described and are considered valid.

The beetle fauna is not equally well known in all parts of the world.

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