Beetle drive

时间:2019-03-08 08:04:02166网络整理admin

By Duncan Graham-Rowe DUNG beetles’ genitals have been helping scientists to chart the rise and fall of rainforests in Australia over the past five million years. Using 40 000 dung beetles collected over the past 150 years, a team led by Chris Reid of CSIRO, Australia’s national research organisation, has examined the changing pattern of forest barriers and the impact of fragmentation. Despite a public lack of admiration, dung beetles make ideal indicators of a rainforest’s health, according to Peter Cranston of the Australian National Insect Collection in Canberra, because they are a diverse and pervasive group. Some species can persist in small fragments of declining forest, while flying beetles are quick to colonise new areas of growth. The beetles have also inhabited Australian rainforest for the past 100 million years. However, many species are remarkably similar in appearance and can only be distinguished by differences in the shape of their genitals. The team’s approach sheds new light on the history of the Paluma range in Queensland. Previous research on the distribution of vertebrates in the region suggested that the rainforest had disappeared at one stage. But Reid and Cranston’s findings indicate that although the block of rainforest diminished significantly, it did not disappear entirely. “The dung beetles can only be used in this manner because we have such a thorough database of specimen locations,” says Cranston. Much of this, he confesses,