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Patch size and colonisation patterns: an experimental analysis using north temperate coprophagous dung beetles

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The relationship between dung pad size and both adult colonisation and larval development was investigated in an assemblage of north temperate dung beetles (Geotrupes, Aphodius and Sphaeridium) using both dung pads and baited pitfall traps. Wet weight of 22-day-old natural dung pads was found to vary widely in the field (<100 g–>1000 g). Across all sampling dates in field experiments, dung pad size had a significant influence on dung beetle biomass sampled from pads. Closer examination of experimental dung pads on the second day after deposition, when beetle biomass was at a maximum, revealed not only a general positive relationship between pad size and dung beetle biomass but, more importantly, a positive relationship between dung pad size and dung beetle density (dung beetle biomass per unit dung volume). There was a strong trend for Aphodius species richness to increase, and maintain higher values for longer periods of time, in larger pads. Although dung pad and pitfall trap samples could differ in the actual numbers of beetles captured, the relationship between different dung sizes and dung beetle biomass was similar, indicating that the phenomenon is largely related to immigration processes. Pat residence times of A. rufipes in the laboratory were significantly positively correlated with dung pad size. In two field experiments, positive correlations were found between dung pad size and numbers of larvae in pads of different sizes and in one of these experiments, larval densities (numbers per unit dung volume) were significantly and positively correlated with dung pad size. In one experiment, Aphodius larvae in the early stages of development were found to preferentially occupy the basal area of dung pads. We discuss the implications of our findings in the context of resource utilisation by north temperate dung beetles.
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Document Type: Original Article

Publication date: June 1, 2000

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