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Structure of local communities of endemic dung beetles in Madagascar

  • Heidi Viljanen (a1), Helena Wirta (a1), Olivier Montreuil (a2), Pierre Rahagalala (a3), Steig Johnson (a4) and Ilkka Hanski (a1)...


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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1Corresponding author: Heidi Viljanen. Email:


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Structure of local communities of endemic dung beetles in Madagascar

  • Heidi Viljanen (a1), Helena Wirta (a1), Olivier Montreuil (a2), Pierre Rahagalala (a3), Steig Johnson (a4) and Ilkka Hanski (a1)...


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