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Dung beetle-mammal associations: Methods, research trends and future directions

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Article number20182002
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>28/02/2019
<mark>Journal</mark>Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1897
Number of pages9
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date20/02/19
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Dung beetles are increasingly used as a study taxon-both as bioindicators of environmental change, and as a model system for exploring ecosystem functioning. The advantages of this focal taxon approach are many; dung beetles are abundant in a wide range of terrestrial ecosystems, speciose, straightforward to sample, respond to environmental gradients and can be easily manipulated to explore species-functioning relationships. However, there remain large gaps in our understanding of the relationship between dung beetles and the mammals they rely on for dung. Here we review the literature, showing that despite an increase in the study of dung beetles linked to ecosystem functioning and to habitat and land use change, there has been little research into their associations with mammals. We summarize the methods and findings from dung beetle-mammal association studies to date, revealing that although empirical field studies of dung beetles rarely include mammal data, those that do, indicate mammal species presence and composition has a large impact on dung beetle species richness and abundance. We then review the methods used to carry out diet preference and ecosystem functioning studies, finding that despite the assumption that dung beetles are generalist feeders, there are few quantitative studies that directly address this. Together this suggests that conclusions about the effects of habitat change on dung beetles are based on incomplete knowledge. We provide recommendations for future work to identify the importance of considering mammal data for dung beetle distributions, composition and their contributions to ecosystem functioning; a critical step if dung beetles are to be used as a reliable bioindicator taxon. © 2019 The Authors. Published by the Royal Society under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License

Bibliographic note

Funding details: Natural Environment Research Council, NERC, NE/K016407/1 Funding details: National Eye Research Centre, NERC, NE/L02612/1 Funding text 1: Financial support came from an NERC studentship to E.H.R. (grant no. NE/L02612/1) and E.M.S. was funded under UK Natural Environment Research Council grant (no. NE/K016407/1).