Beetles (Coleoptera) represent around one-fifth to a quarter of all known forms of life on the planet. Dung beetles, belonging to the superfamily Scarabaeoidea, are the first group of beetles to be assessed as part of the Sampled Red List Index (SRLI). The assessments are coordinated in collaboration with Dr Sacha Spector at Scenic Hudson (formerly at the American Museum of Natural History).
Dung beetles and their larvae generally feed on faecal material from a large number of herbivorous animals, and this intimate relationship with manure means that they play a great part in the breakdown of dung and the recycling of nutrients back into the soil, therefore improving soil structure and fertility. They may also reduce the number of breeding sites for flies and other pests by removing dung pats, which is thought to reduce infestations of farm livestock such as cattle.
Because of their intimate link to herbivorous megafauna, dung beetle populations face threats in those areas where mammalian herbivores are also declining. For example, declines in dung beetle populations are observed in areas of persistently hunted mammal populations. To track their status and trends worldwide, global assessments of a sample of 1,500 species of dung beetles are currently being finalized, with first results expected towards the end of 2013.