Tracing the ancestry of dung beetles
One of the largest and most important groups of dung beetles in the world evolved from a single common ancestor and relationships among the various lineages are now known, according to new research by an entomologist from Western Kentucky University.
|Onitis aygulus — a dung beetle species — in Australia |
The two tribes studied, the onthophagines and oniticellines, evolved from a single common ancestor and are found worldwide, except for Antarctica. These dung beetles make up the vast majority of species and dung beetle biomass in many ecosystems, feeding on mammal dung.
|Cladogram of the tribes Oniticellini (left) and Onthophagini (right) |
[Credit: T. Keith Philips]
While the two tribes studied do not have species that create balls, they instead have evolved many other diverse behaviors. This includes species that do not feed on dung but specialize on fungi, carrion, and dead millipedes. Many species that evolved from the same common ancestor even live in close association with termites and ants, where they might be feeding on nest debris.
"This is one of the most important groups of dung beetles that finally has a hypothesis on how they evolved and diversified on earth," Philips notes. "The evolutionary scenario can now be tested and refined in the future with more data." Although relatively well known, this group still may have as many as 1,000 undiscovered species left for scientists to document.
Source: Pensoft Publishers [April 26, 2016]