Journal of Comparative Physiology A

, Volume 205, Issue 2, pp 211–221 | Cite as

Eye and wing structure closely reflects the visual ecology of dung beetles

  • Claudia ToccoEmail author
  • Marie Dacke
  • Marcus Byrne
Original Paper


An important resource partitioning strategy allowing dung beetles to coexist in the same habitat, while utilising the same food, is species’ separation of activity times. After establishing the diel activity period of three closely related, co-occurring dung beetles, we examined their eye and wing morphology. Absolute and relative eye size, and facet size were greater in the nocturnal Escarabaeus satyrus, followed by the crepuscular Scarabaeus zambesianus and then the diurnal Kheper lamarcki. The diurnal K. lamarcki had the highest wing aspect ratio (long, narrow wings), followed by the crepuscular S. zambesianus and the nocturnal E. satyrus (short, broad wings), suggesting that dim-light active species fly slower than diurnal species. In addition, the two species active in dim light had a lower wing loading than the diurnal species, indicating the need for greater manoeuvrability in the dark. Analyses of wing shape revealed that the diurnal K. lamarcki wing had a proportionally larger jugal and anal region than both dim light species. Our results show that different species of dung beetles have a combination of optical and morphological wing adaptations to support their foraging activities in diverse light conditions.


Diel activity period Eye size Aspect ratio Wing loading Scarabaeini 



The authors thank Nic Venter, and Ted and Winnie Harvey for their help in the field; and the Claude Leon Foundation and the University of the Witwatersrand for funding CT. All national guidelines for care of animals were followed. No insect species in this study is CITES-listed or endangered according to regional Red Lists or Threaten or Protected Species (ToPS) legislation.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Animal, Plant and Environmental SciencesUniversity of the WitwatersrandJohannesburgSouth Africa
  2. 2.Lund Vision Group, Department of BiologyLund UniversityLundSweden

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