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Structure of local communities of endemic dung beetles in Madagascar

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  30 July 2010

Heidi Viljanen*
Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences, PO Box 65, Viikinkaari 1, FI–00014 University of Helsinki, Finland
Helena Wirta
Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences, PO Box 65, Viikinkaari 1, FI–00014 University of Helsinki, Finland
Olivier Montreuil
Entomologie, Département Systématique et Évolution, Muséum national d'Histoire naturelle, 45 rue Buffon, F–75005 Paris, France
Pierre Rahagalala
Département d'Entomologie, Faculté des Sciences, B.P. 906, Université d'Antananarivo, Madagascar
Steig Johnson
Department of Anthropology, University of Calgary, 2500 University Dr NW, Calgary AB T2N 1N4, Canada
Ilkka Hanski
Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences, PO Box 65, Viikinkaari 1, FI–00014 University of Helsinki, Finland
1Corresponding author: Heidi Viljanen. Email:


The wet tropical forests in Madagascar have endemic dung beetles that have radiated for tens of millions of years using a limited range of resources produced by the species-poor mammalian fauna. Beetles were trapped in two wet-forest localities over 4 years (6407 trap nights, 18,869 individuals). More limited data for six other local communities were used to check the generality of the results. Local communities are relatively species poor (around 30 species) in comparison with wet-forest-inhabiting dung beetle communities elsewhere in the tropics (typically 50 or more species). The species belong to only two tribes, Canthonini and Helictopleurina (Oniticellini), which have evolved, exceptionally for dung beetle tribes, completely nocturnal versus diurnal diel activities, respectively. Patterns in the elevational occurrence, body size and resource use suggest that interspecific competition restricts the numbers of locally coexisting species exploiting the limited range of resources that are available. On the other hand, regional turnover in the species composition is exceptionally high due to a large number of species with small geographical ranges, yielding a very large total fauna of dung beetles in Madagascar (>250 species). Apart from exceptionally low local (alpha) diversity and high beta diversity, the Malagasy dung beetle communities are ecologically distinctive from comparable communities in other tropical regions in having high numerical dominance of the most abundant species, small average body size and low degree of resource specialization.

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Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2010 This is a work of the U.S. Government and is not subject to copyright protection in the United States.

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