If dung beetles (Scarabaeidae: Scarabaeinae) arose in association with dinosaurs, did they also suffer a mass co-extinction at the K-Pg boundary?

Gunter, Nicole L., Weir, Tom A., Slipinksi, Adam, Bocak, Ladislav, & Cameron, Stephen L. (2016) If dung beetles (Scarabaeidae: Scarabaeinae) arose in association with dinosaurs, did they also suffer a mass co-extinction at the K-Pg boundary? PLoS ONE, 11(5), e0153570.

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Abstract

The evolutionary success of beetles and numerous other terrestrial insects is generally attributed to co-radiation with flowering plants but most studies have focused on herbivorous or pollinating insects. Non-herbivores represent a significant proportion of beetle diversity yet potential factors that influence their diversification have been largely unexamined. In the present study, we examine the factors driving diversification within the Scarabaeidae, a speciose beetle family with a range of both herbivorous and non-herbivorous ecologies. In particular, it has been long debated whether the key event in the evolution of dung beetles (Scarabaeidae: Scarabaeinae) was an adaptation to feeding on dinosaur or mammalian dung. Here we present molecular evidence to show that the origin of dung beetles occurred in the middle of the Cretaceous, likely in association with dinosaur dung, but more surprisingly the timing is consistent with the rise of the angiosperms. We hypothesize that the switch in dinosaur diet to incorporate more nutritious and less fibrous angiosperm foliage provided a palatable dung source that ultimately created a new niche for diversification. Given the well-accepted mass extinction of non-avian dinosaurs at the Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary, we examine a potential co-extinction of dung beetles due to the loss of an important evolutionary resource, i.e., dinosaur dung. The biogeography of dung beetles is also examined to explore the previously proposed "out of Africa" hypothesis. Given the inferred age of Scarabaeinae as originating in the Lower Cretaceous, the major radiation of dung feeders prior to the Cenomanian, and the early divergence of both African and Gondwanan lineages, we hypothesise that that faunal exchange between Africa and Gondwanaland occurred during the earliest evolution of the Scarabaeinae. Therefore we propose that both Gondwanan vicariance and dispersal of African lineages is responsible for present day distribution of scarabaeine dung beetles and provide examples.

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ID Code: 95476
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
Keywords: Dung beetles, Evolution, Scarabaeine
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0153570
ISSN: 1932-6203
Divisions: Current > Schools > School of Earth, Environmental & Biological Sciences
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Science & Engineering Faculty
Funding:
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2016 Gunter et al
Copyright Statement: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
Deposited On: 10 May 2016 23:14
Last Modified: 11 May 2016 22:18

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