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Historical vs. ecological factors influencing global patterns of scarabaeine dung beetle diversity



Abstract.  There has been much debate concerning the relative influence on biodiversity of historical vs. current ecological factors. Although both are important, we suggest that historical influences might be greater at higher taxonomic level, since one is looking further back into evolutionary history than at lower taxonomic level. Although we are unable to separate ecological from historical effects in the present global study on scarabaeine dung beetles, we are able to demonstrate differences in correlations between major environmental influences (climatic area, numbers of dung types) and major components of diversity (taxon richness, taxon diversity, functional composition) at different taxonomic levels (tribe, genus, species). Current global variation in taxon richness is correlated strongly to current biogeographical variation in the area of suitable climate at all three taxonomic levels. However, generic and species richness is correlated most strongly to climatic combinations which include tropical and warm summer rainfall climate types (I, II). In contrast, tribal richness is correlated most strongly to climatic combinations which include both warm summer rainfall and temperate climate types (II, VI, X). Regional variation in the number of available dung types shows a strong positive correlation to regional variation in taxon richness at higher tribal level but not at lower generic and species levels. Similarly, biogeographical differences in the number of available dung types show a strong negative correlation to dominance indices for taxon diversity at tribal level (distribution of generic numbers between tribes) but none at generic level (species numbers per genus). As functional diversification is linked closely to taxonomic diversification at tribal level, proportions of both ball-rolling genera and ball-rolling species also show strong negative correlations to the number of dung types available in each region. In conclusion, the presence of dung type correlations only at higher taxonomic level may reflect historical effects on scarabaeine taxon diversification, whereas differences in correlations to climate type with taxonomic level may reflect both current ecological and historical effects.

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