Low-temperature tolerance in coprophagic beetle species (Coleoptera: Scarabaeidae): implications for ecological services

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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


1. Low temperatures affect insect functioning and population dynamics. Although temperate species cope with low temperatures better than their tropical counterparts, increasing temperature variability due to climate change exposes tropical species to frequent cold stress. For keystone insect species providing important ecosystem services, low-temperature tolerances, and behavioural responses remain unknown, hampering predictions under climate change. 2. The present study examined low-temperature physiology [critical thermal minima (CTmin) and chill coma recovery time (CCRT)] of six dung beetle species across three activity times: diurnal Allogymnopleurus indigaceous (Reiche) and Euoniticellus intermedius (Reiche); crepuscular Onthophagus alexis (Klug) and Onthophagus gazella (Fabricius), and; nocturnal Copris elephenor (Klug) and Scarabaeus zambezianus (Peringuey). Further, ecological service delivery (dung removal) was examined between diurnal and nocturnal species across the temperature regimes. 3. Nocturnal species had significantly greater cold tolerance than both crepuscular and diurnal species, while CCRT was significantly shortest in diurnal than both crepuscular and nocturnal species. Dung ball production between diurnal and nocturnal species interacted with temperature, with diurnal species producing significantly fewer balls at low temperatures, while nocturnal beetles were not significantly affected. In turn, nocturnal species produced significantly larger balls than the diurnal species across temperatures. Effects of temperature regime shifts were intertwined with the foraging ecology of individual species. 4. Future research should quantify species' functional responses toward different amounts of dung masses as stressful temperatures increase. 5. Results are significant for determination of species thermal ranges and predicting costs of low-temperature stress through reduced ecological services under shifting thermal environments.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1101-1112
Number of pages12
JournalEcological Entomology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Jun 1 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology
  • Insect Science


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