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Predicting the distribution of tropical dung beetles

Although they live in almost every ecosystem in the world—from your backyard to the Antarctic—scientists know very little about many insect species, including many individual species’ distribution. A new study in’s open-access journal Tropical Conservation Science attempts to predict the range of 53 dung beetle species in the genus Eurysternus, all of which are found in the American tropics. Dung beetles are hugely important to their environments, since they efficiently devour and recycle waste.

“Eurysternus is distributed from central Mexico to southern Brazil. This genus occurs across a broad range of forest conditions and consumes a varied diet of carrion, feces and even leaves,” the researchers write.

By combining 22,000 geo-referenced records of the 53 species, the scientists were able to predict particular species’ climatic needs. With these parameters in mind, the researchers searched for similar climates where the species may reside unrecorded, creating a map of possible distribution for each species. They found that temperature was the most important factor in configuring the distribution of Eurysternus beetles.

“These simulations are useful for designing future surveys aimed at collecting new observations to improve biogeographical and taxonomic knowledge,” the researchers write, noting that surveys for these species are most needed in the Jurua and Rio Branco basins of the upper Brazilian Amazon, between Manaus and Santarem in the lower Amazon, the Brazilian state of Amapám, the Guyanas, Mato Grosso to Paraguay, Honduras, and Nicaragua.

CITATION: Camero-R, E. and Lobo, J. M. 2012. The distribution of the species of Eurysternus Dalman, 1824 (Coleoptera: Scarabaeidae) in America: potential distributions and the locations of areas to be surveyed. Tropical Conservation Science Vol. 5(2):225-244.

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