Coprophagous Insects And The Ecology Of Infectious Diseases Of Wildlife

Elizabeth Nichols, Swarthmore College
V. Alarcón
S. Forgie
L. A. Gomez-Puerta
M. S. Jones


A diversity of macro- and microparasitic species exert strong influences on wildlife population density, community structure, and ecosystem functioning, all through their impacts on individual host fitness. Through consuming, manipulating, and relocating wildlife feces, over 7,000 species of coprophagous dung beetles interact with a staggering diversity of wildlife parasites with fecal-oral transmission in ways that both increase and decrease transmission. Here, we review the mechanisms by which dung beetles influence micro- and macroparasite transmission and outline a future research framework that integrates theory and empirical insights to advance our understanding of how these relationships may interact with ongoing environmental change drivers to further influence wildlife populations and community structure. Any organism that significantly influences parasite transmission will impact multiple levels of biological organization. Therefore, improving our understanding of the role of dung beetle interactions within disease ecology will be key to future efforts to understand the overall dynamics of infection in wildlife and how parasites contribute to the maintenance of ecosystem structure and function and evolutionary processes in wild animals.