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Historical biogeography of scarabaeine dung beetles

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Abstract:

Abstract Aim 

(1) To review briefly global biogeographical patterns in dung beetles (Coleoptera: Scarabaeidae: Scarabaeinae), a group whose evolutionary history has been dominated by ecological specialization to vertebrate dung in warmer climates. (2) To develop hypotheses accounting for the evolution of these patterns. Location 

Six principal biogeographical regions: Palaearctic, Oriental, Afrotropical, Australasia, Neotropical, Nearctic and five outlying islands or island groups harbouring endemic genera: Caribbean, Madagascar, Mauritius, New Caledonia, New Zealand. Methods 

Major patterns of tribal, generic and species distribution are investigated using cluster analysis, ordination, parsimony analysis of endemism and track analysis. Attempts are made to resolve biogeographical patterns with findings in the fields of plate tectonics, fossil and evolutionary history, plus phylogeny of both mammals and dung beetles. Results 

Because of conflict between published findings, it is uncertain at what point in time density of dinosaur dung, mammal dung or both became sufficiently great to select for specialized habits in dung beetles. However, biogeographical evidence would suggest a Mesozoic origin followed by further taxonomic radiation during the Cenozoic, possibly in response to the increasing size and diversity of mammalian dung types in South America and Afro-Eurasia. Proportional generic distribution in fourteen tribes and subtribes showed four principal biogeographical patterns: (1) southerly biased Gondwanaland distribution, (2) Americas or (3) Madagascar endemism, and (4) northerly biased, Afro-Eurasian-centred distribution with limited numbers of genera also widespread in other regions. Proportional composition of faunas in eleven geographical regions indicated three principal distributional centres, East Gondwanaland fragments, Afro-Eurasia and the Americas. These patterns probably result from three principal long-term range expansion and vicariance events (Mesozoic: Gondwanaland interchange and fragmentation, Cenozoic: Afro-Eurasian/Nearctic interchange and the Great American interchange). It is suggested that old vicariance caused by the Mesozoic fragmentation of Gondwanaland leads to a high degree of regional endemism at generic or tribal level across one or more Gondwanaland tracks. In contrast, it is suggested that the more recent Cenozoic range expansions occurred primarily towards northern regions leading to endemism primarily at species level. These Cenozoic radiations were facilitated by the re-linking of continents, either because of tectonic plate movements (Africa to Eurasia in Miocene), climatically induced sea-level change (Afro-Eurasia to Nearctic in Miocene and Pleistocene), or similar coupled with orogenics (Nearctic to Neotropical in Pliocene). Speciation has followed vicariance either because of climatic change or physical barrier development. These recent range expansions probably occurred principally along an Afro-Eurasian land track to the Nearctic and Neotropical and an Americas land track northwards from the Neotropics to the Nearctic, with limited dispersal from Eurasia to Australia, probably across a sea barrier. This accounts for the overall, spatially constrained, biogeographical pattern comprising large numbers of species-poor genera endemic to a single biogeographical region and fewer more species-rich genera, many of which show wider biogeographical distributions. In most southerly regions (Australasia, Madagascar, Neotropical), faunal composition and generic endemism is primarily dominated by elements with Gondwanaland ancestry, which is consistent with the Gondwanaland origin claimed for Scarabaeinae. In Afro-Eurasia (Palaearctic, Oriental, Afrotropical), generic endemism of monophyletically derived Afro-Eurasian and widespread lineages is centred in the Afrotropical region and faunal composition is numerically dominated by Afro-Eurasian and widespread elements. In the Nearctic region, the fauna is jointly dominated by widespread elements, derived from Afro-Eurasia, and Gondwanaland and Americas elements derived from the Neotropical region. Main conclusions 

Global biogeographical patterns in scarabaeine dung beetles primarily result from Mesozoic and Cenozoic range expansion events followed by vicariance, although recent dispersal to Australia may have occurred across sea barriers. Detailed phylogenetics research is required to provide data to support dispersal/vicariance hypotheses.

Keywords: Biogeography; Scarabaeinae; dinosaurs; dispersal; dung; global; historical; mammals; vicariance

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1046/j.1365-2699.2002.00776.x

Affiliations: Department of Zoology and Entomology, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa

Publication date: September 1, 2002

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