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Parasitology. 2014 Apr;141(5):614-23. doi: 10.1017/S0031182013002011. Epub 2013 Dec 18.

Dung beetles and fecal helminth transmission: patterns, mechanisms and questions.

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Department of Ecology, University of São Paulo, São Paulo, SP, Brazil.
Center for Biodiversity and Conservation, American Museum of Natural History, New York, NY, USA.


Dung beetles are detrivorous insects that feed on and reproduce in the fecal material of vertebrates. This dependency on vertebrate feces implies frequent contact between dung beetles and parasitic helminths with a fecal component to their life-cycle. Interactions between dung beetles and helminths carry both positive and negative consequences for successful parasite transmission, however to date there has been no systematic review of dung beetle-helminth interactions, their epidemiological importance, or their underlying mechanisms. Here we review the observational evidence of beetle biodiversity-helminth transmission relationships, propose five mechanisms by which dung beetles influence helminth survival and transmission, and highlight areas for future research. Efforts to understand how anthropogenic impacts on biodiversity may influence parasite transmission must include the development of detailed, mechanistic understanding of the multiple interactions between free-living and parasitic species within ecological communities. The dung beetle-helminth system may be a promising future model system with which to understand these complex relationships.

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