Are Native Dung Beetle Species Following Mammals in the Critical Weight Range towards Extinction?

Nicole Coggan

Abstract


Australian native mammal species within the 35 g – 5500 g critical weight range (CWR) have been declining rapidly over the last two centuries, with eighteen species becoming extinct. Inhabitants of arid and semi-arid zones are among those most at risk of extinction. Mammal declines threaten the effi ciency of invertebrate-driven ecosystem processes such as nutrient recycling by artificially increasing the realised niche overlap for dung resources used by invertebrates involved with dung decomposition. Native dung beetles are one of the main taxa involved in dung decomposition, an ecosystem function necessary for nutrient recycling. Many native dung beetle species strongly prefer marsupial dung, due to their co-evolutionary history. Threatened populations of CWR species can be protected through species reintroductions. However, the long term absence of mainland CWR mammals may have compromised the effectiveness of dung decomposition as an ecosystem function by reducing dung availability. The compatibility of current coprophage assemblages with ‘novel’ inputs from reintroduced CWR species should therefore be questioned. Assessing the potential for persistence and/or relocation of coprophages in mainland habitats associated with CWR species will be an important part of restoring and monitoring habitats used for species recovery.

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