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Dung Beetles (Coleoptera: Scarabaeoidea)

Mohamed bin Zayed Species project number 212525091

Characterizing the structure and composition of dung beetle communities in a Kenyan savanna

Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation (Project No. 212525091) - Dung Beetles - Awarded $11,000 on January 18, 2022

Dung beetles (Coleoptera: Scarabaeoidae) are a globally distributed group of animals that provide key ecological functions and services. Because of their dependence on dung for food and reproduction, dung beetles are sensitive to changes in mammal assemblages and are among the most vulnerable insect taxa. Yet, despite the importance of dung beetles for ecosystem functioning, their documented sensitivity to environmental and anthropogenic disturbances, and their expected high diversity in tropical locations, our understanding of their diversity, distribution, and associations with mammals remains limited.


In Central Kenya specifically, the dung beetle fauna is rich but not well known or studied. The savannas found within this region are host to diverse assemblages of large mammalian herbivores (LMH, >5kg), many of which are highly threatened and theoretically support a large diversity and biomass of dung beetles. The loss of these LMH is expected to have profound effects on the structure and composition of dung beetle communities in these ecosystem. As such, identifying the mammal assemblages on which dung beetles depend, and understanding their patterns of community assembly/disassembly, particularly in African savannas which support a wide suite of threatened LMH and are subject to major anthropogenic disturbances, is thus essential for their conservation.


The overall objectives of this project are as follows:

1. Describe and characterize dung beetle communities across seasons, environmental gradients, and in the presence of various mammal species, functional guilds, and sizes.

2. Examine how associations between dung beetles and large mammalian herbivores in an African savanna vary across seasons and environmental gradients.

3. Identify dung beetle species that may be at high risk of extinction due to their dependence on specific or threatened large mammalian herbivores (LMH).

4. Assess the population and conservation status of dung beetle species in Kenyan savannas. 

Project 212525091 location - Kenya, Africa