Quirks & Quarks

Dung beetles diversified by dining on dinosaur droppings

The appearance of dinosaurs and the flowering plants they ate opened a new nutritious niche for beetles

The appearance of dinosaurs and the flowering plants they ate opened a niche for beetles

Dung beetle (CSIRO - cc-by-3.0)
Scientists have found a new evolutionary connection between dung beetles and dinosaurs. Dung beetles first appeared in the Lower Cretaceous, 115 to 130 million years ago. This timing and subsequent diversification of dung beetles coincides with the ecological dominance of flowering plants, or angiosperms.

In a new study by Dr. Nicole Gunter, the Invertebrate Zoology Collections Manager at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, she hypothesizes that the incorporation of flowering plants in the diet of herbivorous dinosaurs resulted in the first dung source that provided nutrition for the beetles, allowing them to diversify into thousands of species.

By the time dinosaurs went extinct, some dung beetles had already adapted to mammalian dung. These are the ancestors of the dung beetles we have today.

Related Links

Paper in PLOS One
- Cleveland Museum Of Natural History release
Science news story 
 


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