Landcare Research - Manaaki Whenua

Landcare-Research -Manaaki Whenua

FNZ 42 - Aphodiinae (Insecta: Coleoptera: Scarabaeidae) - Popular summary

Stebnicka, ZT 2001. Aphodiinae (Insecta: Coleoptera: Scarabaeidae). Fauna of New Zealand 42, 64 pages.
( ISSN 0111-5383 (print), ; no. 42. ISBN 0-478-09341-1 (print), ). Published 15 Jun 2001

Popular summary

Dung beetles

Representatives of the Aphodiinae are found throughout the world but it is generally assumed that the warm part of the Old World is their centre of distribution. The New World and Australia, on the other hand, possess only very few members of those tribes and genera that occur in the Old World -- instead, endemic genera and species of other tribes of Aphodiinae are numerous.

Approximately 3100 species of aphodiines are known, and many more may be expected, especially from the Neotropical and Oriental regions. The beetles are variously shaped and sculptured, and range from 0.8 mm to 16.0 mm in length. They are most commonly called "dung beetles", though in fact only a part of this subfamily is usually collected in dung. Aphodiinae are coprophagous or saprophagous, feeding and breeding in the soil on various kinds of excrement and/or in vegetable debris. Several species found in Europe, Asia, America, and Australia, and two species (Acrossidius tasmaniae (Hope) and Ataenius picinus Harold) in New Zealand have been studied as minor pests of cultivated plants. Some species, e.g., Phycocus graniceps Broun and Tesarius sulcipennis (Lea), are strongly associated with coastal sand dunes. Many species in other countries are associated with ants and termites and some others live in the burrows of small mammals. A few species are known to be kleptoparasitic, breeding in the brood balls of nest-building dung beetles (Scarabaeidae: Scarabaeinae). Adults of Aphodiinae are attracted to light and are often found in various kinds of excrement, in decaying vegetation, under logs and moss, in rotten wood, and under loose bark of dead trees. The immatures are known for a relatively small number of species.

Twenty species of Aphodiinae are now known from New Zealand. Eleven of these have been introduced, probably through human commerce -- six are from Australia, two from America, one from Africa, and the last two are cosmopolitan species of European derivation.

The remaining nine species of the genera Phycocus Broun (introduced to Tasmania) and Saprosites Redtenbacher are indigenous to New Zealand. One species is found only on the South Island, and seven are found only on the North Island including one species collected also on the Kermadec Islands, and one on the Chathams Islands. One species is indigenous to the Three Kings Islands, one to the Chatham Islands, and one to the Kermadec Islands (introduced to the North Island). The non-endemic species, of adventive origin are frequently abundant and conspicuous in towns, orchards, pastures, and other modified environments. The faunal relationships of the native New Zealand Aphodiinae are clearly closest to those of Australia.

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