March 28, 2011
Sampling dung beetles in Eravikulam National Park researchers studied five species, including one flightless dung beetle that is found no-where else in the world: the Ochicanthon devagiriensis.
Forest remnant in Eravikulam National Park. Photo by: Sabu K Thomas.
The authors hypothesize that Ochicanthon devagiriensis evolved its flightlessness along with the arrival of the nilgiri tahr (Nilgiritragus hylocrius). The nilgiri tahr may have provided the beetle with consistent and easy food sources in the form of its dung pellets. If so, this relationship could go back tens of millions of years, preserving a 'fossil ecosystem', and the dung beetle would have roamed these highlands before the arrival of the Asian elephant and the wild cattle, known as gaur.
Given their dependence on forest patches and the nilgiri tahr, researchers believe any ecosystem shifts could push the endemic beetles to extinction.
CITATION: Sabu, T. K., Vinod, K. V., Latha, M., Nithya, S. and Boby, J. 2011. Cloud forest dung beetles (Coleoptera: Scarabaeinae) in the Western Ghats, a global biodiversity hotspot in southwestern India. Tropical Conservation Science Vol. 4 (1) :12-24.
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