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Mol Phylogenet Evol. 2007 Nov;45(2):674-92. Epub 2007 Jun 20.

A molecular phylogenetic analysis of the Scarabaeinae (dung beetles).

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Department of Entomology, Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, London SW7 5BD, UK.


The dung beetles (Scarabaeinae) include ca. 5000 species and exhibit a diverse array of morphologies and behaviors. This variation presumably reflects the adaptation to a diversity of food types and the different strategies used to avoid competition for vertebrate dung, which is the primary breeding environment for most species. The current classification gives great weight to the major behavioral types, separating the ball rollers and the tunnelers, but existing phylogenetic studies have been based on limited taxonomic or biogeographic sampling and have been contradictory. Here, we present a molecular phylogenetic analysis of 214 species of Scarabaeinae, representing all 12 traditionally recognized tribes and six biogeographical regions, using partial gene sequences from one nuclear (28S) and two mitochondrial (cox1, rrnL) genes. Length variation in 28S (588-621 bp) and rrnL (514-523 bp) was subjected to a thorough evaluation of alternative alignments, gap-coding methods, and tree searches using model-based (Bayesian and likelihood), maximum parsimony, and direct optimization analyses. The small-bodied, non-dung-feeding Sarophorus+Coptorhina were basal in all reconstructions. These were closely related to rolling Odontoloma+Dicranocara, suggesting an early acquisition of rolling behavior. Smaller tribes and most genera were monophyletic, while Canthonini and Dichotomiini each consisted of multiple paraphyletic lineages at hierarchical levels equivalent to the smaller tribes. Plasticity of rolling and tunneling was evidenced by a lack of monophyly (S-H test, p > 0.05) and several reversals within clades. The majority of previously unrecognized clades were geographical, including the well-supported Neotropical Phanaeini+Eucraniini, and a large Australian clade of rollers as well as tunneling Coptodactyla and Demarziella. Only three lineages, Gymnopleurini, Copris+Microcopris and Onthophagus, were widespread and therefore appear to be dispersive at a global scale. A reconstruction of biogeographical characters recovered 38-48 transitions between regions and an African origin for most lineages. Dispersal-vicariance analysis supported an African origin with links to all other regions and little back-migration. Our results provide a new synthesis of global-scale dung beetle evolution, demonstrating the great plasticity of behavioral and morphological traits and the importance of biogeographic distributions as the basis for a new classification.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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