Selection of the Spatial Habitat of Coprophagous Beetles in the Kaiserstuhl Area near Freiburg (SW-Germany)

homas Waßmer

Institute for Landscape Ecology and Landuse Planning, Faculty of Forestry, Albert-Ludwigs-University of Freiburg, D-79085 Freiburg.
Current address: Lehrstuhl Markl, Fakultät für Biologie, Universität Konstanz,  Postfach 5560 M618, D-78434 Konstanz, Germany.


1. In an all-year-round survey of coprophagous beetles in a pasture in the Kaiserstuhl area (SW-Germany), cow-pats and sheep lumps were gathered from two field areas and one wooded area twice a month. 40,298 beetles belonging to 40 species of Scarabaeoidea and 14 of Hydrophilidae were detected. The small site on the Kaiserstuhl has the highest species diversity of Scarabaeoidea species among all local dung beetle coenoses described in Europe thus far.

 2. In all seasons of the year, population density and biomass of dung beetles were higher on the open pastures than in the wooded pasture. Only in summer and on the coldest days of winter, values of both macrohabitats were approximately the same, which might be due to the mediated climate of wooded habitats in those seasons.

3. 11 out of 29 abundant species showed a clear preference for open macrohabitats, while only four prefered the wooded macrohabitat. All the other species were eurytopic. Faunistic similarity was low among all three macrohabitats and did not show closer relationships between the two open pastures than between both of them and the wooded pasture.

 4. Sheep lumps were more densely populated than cow-pats, whereas the latter contained a higher biomass in dung beetles. The cow-pat community was higher in species number as well as in diversity. Faunistic similarity between both dung beetle communities was minimal.

 5. 13 out of 32 abundant dung beetle species preferred each dung type. Mean size of Scarabaeoidea dung beetles preferring sheep lumps was significantly lower than of those prefering cow-pats. Regardless their size difference, all but one Hydrophilidae species showed a pronounced preference for cow-pats.

 6. Selection of the spatial habitats played a minor role in compartimentation of the total niche space of the dung beetle community as compared to temporal niche dimensions such as seasonality. As in the case of seasonality, Aphodius was best separated within the genus.

Keywords: Dung beetles, Scarabaeidae, Hydrophilidae, Geotrupidae, landscape type, forest, open pasture, dung type, cow-pats, sheep lumps.