A Mexican-Italian research team discovered two new dung beetle species in Mexico while carrying out a biodiversity study in conserved forests and cattle-grazing sites. The new species are described in the journal ZooKeys.
As their name suggests, dung beetles are insects that feed mainly on mammal faeces. For decades, an international research team, led by Dr. Gonzalo Halffter, has studied dung beetles across the world, especially in Mexico. As a consequence, the Mexican species are some of the best-known. However, Dr. Halffter and his team are not interested exclusively in dung beetles, but also in the effects of land-use change, ecosystems modification by human activities, and conservation biology.
Raising livestock is one of the major drivers of biodiversity loss worldwide, which makes the present discovery particularly impressive. A large amount of land is used for livestock farming in Mexico, so dung beetles are essential in cleaning up the environment.
The first to discover these new dung beetles was Victor Moctezuma, a student of Dr. Halffter’s at the Instituto de Ecología of Mexico.
“I was carrying out sampling for my master’s degree studies, but I had no idea that new dung beetles could be found in a forest that is disturbed by human activities, such as livestock grazing and land-use change,” Moctezuma said.
Apart from the two new dung beetles, formally called Onthophagus clavijeroi and Onthophagus martinpierai, their paper also provides theories about the current distributions of these insects across the Mexican mountains and their putative evolutive relationships. As a whole, the study highlights the importance of disturbed forests for species discovery and conservation.
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