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Dung Beetles indicate ecosystem status, but study methods matter shows new study

15 Jan 2020

Dung beetles are widely used in ecological research, and the reason that they are so useful is that they are so called indicator species, meaning that their abundance and activity, for example in a rainforest site, gives a good idea of how the ecosystem is doing. As their name indicates, dung beetles are concerned with faeces, which they clear (by consuming and nesting in it), thereby not only preventing animal droppings from lying around accumulating flies and spreading disease, but also stimulate nutrient cycling and create soil conditions that promote plant growth.  

However, to study dung beetles, researchers use faeces to attract the beetles, and as it turns out, which type of faeces (from local animals or easily available human researchers' excrements) they use may affect the results. A recent publication co-authored by ASE Asst Prof Eleanor Slade shows that the methods used to survey dung beetles matters and researchers also need to take differences in dung preference into consideration. The story has been picked up by The Economist and is covered in a scientific methods article entitled Dung beetles prefer human faeces to those of wild animals

Link to the original article, published in the journal Biotropica: Linking dung beetle‐mediated functions to interactions in the Atlantic Forest: Sampling design matters