Big Dung Beetles Dig Deeper: Trait-Based Consequences For Faecal Parasite Transmission

N. Gregory
A. Gómez
T. M. F. de S. Oliveira
Elizabeth Nichols, Swarthmore College


Observational evidence suggests that burial of faeces by dung beetles negatively influences the transmission of directly transmitted gastrointestinal helminths. However, the mechanistic basis for these interactions is poorly characterised, limiting our ability to understand relationships between beetle community composition and helminth transmission. We demonstrate that beetle body size and sex significantly impact tunnel depth, a key variable affecting parasite survival. Additionally, high parasite loads reduce the depth of beetle faeces burial, suggesting that the local prevalence of parasites infecting beetles may impact beetle ecosystem function. Our study represents a first step towards a mechanistic understanding of a potentially epidemiologically relevant ecosystem function.