Roles of endothermy in niche differentiation for ball-rolling dung beetles (Coleoptera: Scarabaeidae) along an altitudinal gradient

Publication Type:Journal Article
Year of Publication:2007
Authors:J. R. Verdu, Arellano, L., Numa, C., Mico, E.
Journal:Ecological Entomology
Keywords:Ecophysiology, niche overlap, Null models, Scarabaeoidea ., thermal niche, thermoregulation

1. An analysis of whether niche differentiation in ball-rolling dung beetles can be explained by the way in which they regulate their body temperature was conducted. 2. A priori assumptions were: (i) if thermoregulation affects niche partitioning, sympatric species must have different endothermic strategies that minimise encounters; or, alternatively (ii) if two co-occurring species show the same thermoregulation pattern and their flight periods overlap, they might be avoiding competition by exhibiting different resource preferences or different food relocation behaviour. 3. The ball-rolling dung beetles studied showed a hierarchical structure based on the species’ endothermic capacity, measured as temperature excess [ T ex = difference between body temperature ( T b ) and ambient temperature ( T a )]. Those with a high T ex (10 – 15 °C) were located exclusively at altitudes >1000 m a.s.l. On the coastal plains, species with a high T ex were restricted to flying at night when the T a was lower. Species with a lower T ex (less than 10 °C higher than T a ) were found in the coastal plains zone. 4. Where there was sympatry with similar trophic habits, the species involved showed very different thermal niches, and where there was significant overlap of thermal niches between sympatric species, trophic habits of species were very different. 5. The results suggest that it is possible to use the concept of the thermal niche as a tool to explain interspecific interactions and the spatial distribution of species.

Scratchpads developed and conceived by (alphabetical): Ed Baker, Katherine Bouton Alice Heaton Dimitris Koureas, Laurence Livermore, Dave Roberts, Simon Rycroft, Ben Scott, Vince Smith