Heat tolerance may determine activity time in coprophagic beetle species (Coleoptera:Scarabaeidae)

Nonofo Gotcha, Honest Machekano, Ross N. Cuthbert, Casper Nyamukondiwa

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1 Citation (Scopus)


Although reports have documented loss of species diversity and ecological services caused by stressful temperature changes that result from climate change, some species cope through behavioral compensation. As temperatures and magnitudes of temperature extremes increase, animals should compensate to maintain fitness (such as through temporary behavioral shifts in activity times). Appropriate timing of activity helps avoid competition across species. Although coprophagic dung beetles exhibit species-specific temporal activity times, it is unknown whether temperature drives evolution of these species-specific temporal activity times. Using nine dung beetle species (three each of diurnal, crepuscular, and nocturnal species), we explored differences in heat stress tolerance measured as critical thermal maxima (CTmax; the highest temperature allowing activity) and heat knockdown time (HKDT; survival time under acute heat stress) across these species, and examined the results using a phylogenetically informed approach. Our results showed that day-active species had significantly higher CTmax (diurnal > crepuscular = nocturnal species), whereas crepuscular species had higher HKDT (crepuscular > nocturnal > diurnal species). There was no correlation between heat tolerance and body size across species with distinct temporal activity, and no significant phylogenetic constraint for activity. Species with higher CTmax did not necessarily have higher HKDT, which indicates that species may respond differently to diverse heat tolerance metrics. Acute heat tolerance for diurnal beetles indicates that this trait may constrain activity time and, under high acute temperatures with climate change, species may shift activity times in more benign environments. These results contribute to elucidate the evolution of foraging behavior and management of coprophagic beetle ecosystem services under changing environments.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1076-1086
Number of pages11
JournalInsect Science
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Jun 22 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • General Biochemistry,Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • Insect Science


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