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Dung Beetle Ecology

Dung Beetle Ecology

Ilkka Hanski
Yves Cambefort
Copyright Date: 1991
Pages: 520
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  • Book Info
    Dung Beetle Ecology
    Book Description:

    In many ecosystems dung beetles play a crucial role--both ecologically and economically--in the decomposition of large herbivore dung. Their activities provide scientists with an excellent opportunity to explore biological community dynamics. This collection of essays offers a concise account of the population and community ecology of dung beetles worldwide, with an emphasis on comparisons between arctic, temperate, and tropical species assemblages. Useful insights arise from relating the vast differences in species' life histories to their population and community-level consequences. The authors also discuss changes in dung beetle faunas due to human-caused habitat alteration and examine the possible effects of introducing dung beetles to cattle-breeding areas that lack efficient native species. "With the expansion of cattle breeding areas, the ecology of dung beetles is a subject of great economic concern as well as one of intense theoretical interest. This excellent book represents an up-to-date ecological study covering important aspects of the dung beetle never before presented."--Gonzalo Halffter, Instituto de Ecologia, Mexico City

    Originally published in 1991.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-6209-2
    Subjects: Ecology & Evolutionary Biology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. List of Contributors
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-xii)
    Ilkka Hanski and Yves Cambefort
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  6. Part One: Introduction

    • [Part One Introduction]
      (pp. 3-4)

      The four chapters in Part 1 lay the foundation for this book by reviewing four perspectives of dung beetle ecology: the population ecology of insects that use ephemeral resources in patchy habitats; the evolution of coprophagy from saprophagy in beetles; the breeding biology of dung beetles; and the biogeography and evolution of these beetles.

      We start with an overview of patchy and ephemeral microhabitats, of which animal droppings are a prime example. For dung beetles and dung-breeding flies, droppings are concentrations of high-quality resources, for which competition is often severe. In Chapter 1 we describe two contrasting models of competitive...

    • CHAPTER 1 The Dung Insect Community
      (pp. 5-21)
      Ilkka Hanski

      Animal droppings are one of the best examples of what Charles Elton (1949) called minor habitats, “centres of action in which interspersion between populations tends to be complete and ecological dynamic relations at their strongest.” In short, dung beetle ecology is about competitive exploitation of nutritionally rich resources in one such “minor habitat” by species with an elaborate breeding behavior. I do not wish to suggest that all dung beetles live in equally competitive communities, nor do all dung beetles exhibit equally intricate nesting behavior. The chapters in this volume will focus on a range of dung beetle populations and...

    • CHAPTER 2 From Saprophagy to Coprophagy
      (pp. 22-35)
      Yves Cambefort

      Dung beetles comprise a small number of families in the superfamily Scarabaeoidea, section Laparosticti: Scarabaeidae, Geotrupidae, Aphodiidae, and, to a lesser degree, Chironidae, Hybosoridae, and Trogidae (see the appendix at the end of this chapter for the taxonomy used in this book). Many of the families clustered in this section are poorly known, but it seems likely and has been assumed by many authors (Janssens 1954; Balthasar 1963; Halffter and Matthews 1966, 1971) that the majority are saprophages, both in the larval and adult stages. Saprophagy and coprophagy are not fundamentally different feeding habits: the pioneering experiments by Fabre (1910)...

    • CHAPTER 3 Dung Beetle Population Biology
      (pp. 36-50)
      Yves Cambefort and Ilkka Hanski

      The single most particular biological feature of dung beetles is their breeding behavior, often involving the formation of bisexual pairs of beetles for shorter or longer periods, construction of one or more nests in the soil, and time-consuming if not otherwise costly parental care. Although not all dung beetles make nests, and although some of the above characteristics can be found in other insects, for example in Dermaptera (Caussanel 1984) and in other beetles, such as Silphidae (Halffter, Anduaga, and Huerta 1984) and Passalidae (Reyes-Castillo and Halffter 1984), the sheer range of variation in and the degree of perfection of...

    • [Illustrations]
      (pp. None)
    • CHAPTER 4 Biogeography and Evolution
      (pp. 51-68)
      Yves Cambefort

      Fossil beetles are known from deposits formed some 250 million years BP. The earliest Scarabaeoidea Laparosticti, which includes the dung beetles, isAphodiitesfrom lower Lias (lower Jurassic) from Switzerland, 180 million years BP (Crowson 1981).Aphodiiteswas an “undifferentiated Laparosticti” with short grinding mandibles similar to the ancestral type described for beetles in general by Crowson (1981). The ancestral Scarabaeoidea were probably close to the Dascilloidea, a small group of mostly tropical floricolous beetles.

      Fossil dung beetles are scarce (Paulian 1943; Balthasar 1963; Crowson 1981). The oldest fossils belong to the primitive families Geotrupidae (Jurassic) and Hybosoridae (lower Cretaceous)....

    • [Illustrations]
      (pp. None)
  7. Part Two: Regional Dung Beetle Assemblages

    • [Part Two Introduction]
      (pp. 71-74)

      The following eleven chapters describe the kind of dung beetle assemblages that one can expect to encounter in different parts of the world, from the north temperate regions to the tropics. Although such information exists in the specialist literature, it has never been presented in one volume, nor in a more general ecological context. We have compiled a detailed appendix of the ecology of particular beetle communities from different biomes, including information for about six hundred species of Scarabaeidae, or more than 10% of the known species. Apart from allowing many comparisons, some of which are presented in Part 3...

    • CHAPTER 5 North Temperate Dung Beetles
      (pp. 75-96)
      Ilkka Hanski

      The characteristic feature of dung insect communities in north temperate regions is the absence of Scarabaeidae—the dung beetles proper—and the dominance of the smallAphodius(Aphodiidae) species, which often coexist with a few largerGeotrupes(Geotrupidae) species (Balthasar 1963; Halffter and Matthews 1966). Unlike at lower latitudes, where Scarabaeidae may completely dominate the entire dung insect community, the north temperate communities are typically diverse mixtures of dung beetles and dung flies, preyed upon by hundreds of predatory and parasitic mites, beetles, flies, and wasps (Hanski 1987a; Table 5.1). Counting all the species of insects in the dung community,...

    • CHAPTER 6 South Temperate Dung Beetles
      (pp. 97-115)
      Jean-Pierre Lumaret and Alan A. Kirk

      Mediterranean dung beetles are well known taxonomically (Dellacasa 1983; Baraud 1985; Martin-Piera 1986) and the basic biology of most species has been worked out in great detail (Lumaret 1975, 1978, 1983a; Kirk 1983; Lumaret and Kirk 1987). Biogeographical and ecological studies have established the temperature, rainfall, and edaphic requirements of the species as well as their altitudinal and latitudinal distribution limits; many such studies have been conducted in Spain (Galante 1979; Martin-Piera 1982; Mesa 1985; Kirk and Ridsdill-Smith 1986), in France (Lumaret 1978, 1978–79a, 1978–79b), and in Italy and Greece (Binaghi et al. 1969; Carpaneto 1974, 1981; Pierotti...

    • CHAPTER 7 Dung Beetles in Subtropical North America
      (pp. 116-132)
      Bert Kohlmann

      Subtropical North America is characterized by great biogeographic complexity, and by the presence of plant and animal communities that are mixtures of old, established species and more recently arrived ones. It is impractical to define strict geographic boundaries to subtropical North America, but for the purposes of this chapter its territory is considered to comprise Mexico and the southeastern United States, from Texas to Florida and southern Georgia.

      The unique biogeography of dung beetles in subtropical North America has been intensively studied by Halffter (1962, 1964, 1972, 1974, 1976, 1978, 1987). There are not many ecological studies of entire dung...

    • CHAPTER 8 Dung Beetles of Southern Africa
      (pp. 133-155)
      Bernard M. Doube

      In Africa, south of the Sahara, there are more than 2,000 species of dung beetles in the family Scarabaeidae. Southern Africa alone has 780 species, of which some 150 species may be found in one locality (Scholtz and de Villiers 1983; Doube 1987). Additionally, southern Africa has approximately 60 species of dung-dwelling Aphodiidae (Bernon 1981; A.L.V. Davis, pers. comm.), some dung-frequenting Hybosoridae and Trogidae (C. H. Scholtz, pers. comm.), but no coprophagous Geotrupidae. There are several hundred species of dung-frequenting staphylinid, histerid, and hydrophilid beetles, most of which are predators (Bernon 1981; Doube 1986; Davis et al. 1988). African dung...

    • CHAPTER 9 Dung Beetles in Tropical Savannas
      (pp. 156-178)
      Yves Cambefort

      Tropical grasslands, or savannas, comprise the biome with the most diverse mammalian fauna ever found on Earth (e.g., Bigalke 1972; McNaughton and Georgiadis 1986). Unfortunately, in all parts of the world except one, much of the fauna has become extinct in the latest geological times, during the Pleistocene extinctions (Axelrod 1967; Birks 1986; Owen-Smith 1987), possibly causing the extinction of many dung beetles. The only rich mammal fauna that continues to survive on savannas is the African one. Because dung beetles are closely associated with mammals, it is not surprising that they reach their peak in the tropical African savannas,...

    • CHAPTER 10 Dung Beetles in Tropical Forests in South-East Asia
      (pp. 179-197)
      Ilkka Hanski and Jan Krikken

      Tropical forests in South-East Asia are fragmented among the thousands of smaller and larger, and more or less isolated, islands in the largest aggregation of islands in the world. The geological history of the region is not yet entirely understood (Whitmore 1987), though the major features were known already to Alfred Russell Wallace: tropical forests extend from the western Indo-Malayan region to the eastern New Guinean-Australian region; and while the large western islands on the Sunda Shelf have been repeatedly connected and disconnected to the mainland and to each other, many of the central islands are oceanic. These two geological...

    • CHAPTER 11 Dung Beetles in Tropical Forests in Africa
      (pp. 198-210)
      Yves Cambefort and Philippe Walter

      When Halffter and Matthews reviewed the natural history of dung beetles in 1966, nothing was known about the tropical forest species outside the Neotropics. For the African species, all that existed a few years ago were some taxonomical and distributional records (e.g., Frey 1961; Balthasar 1967), and even today the ecology of African forest dung beetles remains poorly known. Studies have been conducted primarily in Zaire (Walter 1977, 1978, 1983), the Ivory Coast (Cambefort 1980, 1982b, 1984, 1985), and Gabon (Cambefort and Walter 1985; Walter 1984a, b, 1987), with little information available from Liberia (Hanski 1983) and Uganda (Nummelin and...

    • CHAPTER 12 Dung Beetles in Tropical American Forests
      (pp. 211-229)
      Bruce D. Gill

      Central and South America enclose the largest expanse of tropical forests in the world, with a long evolutionary history and a rich fauna of dung beetles. Nearly all tropical American dung beetles belong to the family Scarabaeidae, with only a few species representing the Aphodiidae, Hybosoridae, and Trogidae.

      Many groups of dung beetles in tropical America are still poorly known taxonomically, especially the genera with predominantly small species, such asAteuchus,Canthidium, andUroxys. Lack of revisionary work and the presence of many undescribed taxa makes identification difficult and has led some workers to study only the larger and more...

    • CHAPTER 13 Dung Beetles of the Sahel Region
      (pp. 230-241)
      Daniel Rougon and Christiane Rougon

      Sahel, “the edge of the desert” in Arabic, comprises a band of land in Africa running from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea (Fig. 13.1). The Sahelian climate is distinguished by a long dry season from October to May, and by a short rainy season from June to September, during which pluvial agriculture is possible but risky. For the past twenty years, the Sahelian region has had exceptionally low rainfall, which, when combined with intensive use of the vulnerable soils by man, has given rise to extensive desertification.

      Two groups of dung beetles have adapted to the contrasting seasons...

    • CHAPTER 14 Montane Dung Beetles
      (pp. 242-254)
      Jean-Pierre Lumaret and Nicole Stiernet

      Montane habitats have special ecological interest because of the predictable, systematic change in environmental conditions within short distances. The tree line comprises a natural ecological boundary between the lowlands and high altitudes, but its position depends on the montane system and the latitude. In the Alps, the tree line is located between 2,000 and 2,100 m on the southern and between 1,800 and 1,900 m on the northern slopes, while in the Himalayas it is at about 3,600 m (Mani 1968). Gams (1935) recognized four biotic zones above the tree line on the Central European mountains: the lower alpine zone,...

    • CHAPTER 15 Native and Introduced Dung Beetles in Australia
      (pp. 255-278)
      B. M. Doube, A. Macqueen, T. J. Ridsdill-Smith and T. A. Weir

      The Australasian land mass drifted apart from the rest of the Gondwana at the time when the dinosaurs were the dominant dung producers, 100 million years BP. During the past 25 million years, but excluding the last 200 years, the dominant herbivores and dung producers in Australia have been marsupial macropods with about fifty extant species (Tyndale-Biscoe 1971), together with the wombats in eastern Australia. The culmination point for dung beetles was the year 1788, when the arrival of Europeans and their livestock altered the herbivore complex dramatically and created an entirely new situation for dung beetles.

      The current dung...

  8. Part Three: Synthesis

    • [Part Three Introduction]
      (pp. 281-282)

      The eleven chapters in Part 2 described regional dung beetle assemblages from northern temperate regions to tropical forests and savannas. There are obvious differences among the main biomes of the world in their beetle assemblages. Small species of dwellers (Aphodiinae) with high fecundity but low competitive ability predominate at high latitudes, where population densities in relation to resource availability are generally low. In contrast, the larger and competitively superior tunnelers and rollers (Scarabaeidae), with relatively low to extremely low fecundity, are numerically and functionally dominant at low latitudes, where populations are often resource limited. This is a beautiful example of...

    • CHAPTER 16 Spatial Processes
      (pp. 283-304)
      Ilkka Hanski and Yves Cambefort

      Insects living in patchy habitats have typically aggregated spatial distributions; some habitat (resource) patches have large numbers of individuals while others, though they appear to be similar, have only a few individuals (dung: below; Hanski 1987b; carrion: Kneidel 1985; Hanski 1987b, 1987c; Ives 1988b; mushrooms: Shorrocks et al. 1984; Hanski 1989c; fallen fruits: Atkinson and Shorrocks 1984). Aggregated distributions in these insects is no surprise, as aggregated spatial distributions are also the rule in species living in nonpatchy habitats (Taylor et al. 1978), if any habitats are truly nonpatchy for insects. Optimal foraging theories (Krebs and Davies 1981; Stephens and...

    • CHAPTER 17 Competition in Dung Beetles
      (pp. 305-329)
      Ilkka Hanski and Yves Cambefort

      Intraspecific and interspecific competition occur at least occasionally in nearly all communities of dung beetles (see most chapters in Part 2). In some situations—for example, in African savannas on sandy soils in the rainy season (Chapters 8 and 9)—competition is severe and undoubtedly greatly influences the structure of the communities. Unfortunately, there is a lack of rigorous experimental work to demonstrate the degree of competition in different kinds of dung beetle communities, and an even more acute lack of results on the consequences of competition vis-à-vis the dynamics of populations and communities. Lack of relevant empirical studies, not...

    • CHAPTER 18 Resource Partitioning
      (pp. 330-349)
      Ilkka Hanski and Yves Cambefort

      In Chapter 16 we emphasized the role of spatial aggregation in dung beetle ecology, and how intraspecific aggregation between droppings may promote coexistence especially in dwellers and small tunnelers, the two groups of dung beetles with the largest numbers of species (Chapter 4). This perspective was inspired by the fact that most dung beetles use essentially the same resource, which they find in the same place. Hence classical resource partitioning seems a priori an insufficient explanation of coexistence of many similar species frequently engaged in severe competition (Chapter 17). Nonetheless, it must be recognized, on balance, that there are various...

    • CHAPTER 19 Species Richness
      (pp. 350-365)
      Ilkka Hanski and Yves Cambefort

      Local communities of dung beetles may have dozens of species using the same resource (Chapters 6, 8–12). In the previous chapters we have discussed two mechanisms that may allow their coexistence in spite of frequently severe competition (Chapter 17), namely, aggregated spatial distributions (Chapter 16) and resource partitioning, including interspecific differences in foraging and breeding behavior (Chapter 18). Ultimately, one would like to have a theory capable of predicting patterns in species number and other such general attributes of communities. We do not have such a theory, only some building blocks that may prove useful for constructing the theory....

    • CHAPTER 20 Epilogue
      (pp. 366-372)
      Ilkka Hanski

      Dung beetle ecology has reached an exciting stage. New data are accumulating and new ideas are being contemplated. An ecological context is emerging into which old and new pieces of natural history observations fit. Yet so little work has been done in population and community ecology of dung beetles that it is easier to ask new questions than to review old ones. While assimilating the data and the ideas presented in this volume, my two recurrent feelings were that we are still in the dawn of unraveling many of the more significant ecological questions about dung beetles, but also that...

  9. Appendix A
    (pp. 373-377)
  10. Appendix B
    (pp. 378-420)
  11. References
    (pp. 421-464)
  12. Index of the Genera in Scarabaeidae
    (pp. 465-474)
  13. Index
    (pp. 475-481)