The New World Phanaeini are the best known Neotropical dung beetle tribe and a conservation priority among the Scarabaeinae, an ideal focal taxon for biodiversity research and conservation.
We compiled a comprehensive distributional database for 39 phanaeine species in Bolivia and assessed patterns of species richness, body size and endemism in relation to abiotic variables and species richness and body mass of medium to large mammals across nine ecoregions.
Pair-wise linear regressions indicated that phanaeine richness, mean size and endemism are determined by different factors. In all cases mammal body mass had greater explanatory power than abiotic variables or mammal richness. Phanaeine richness was greater in ecoregions with on average smaller mammals and greater mammal richness. Mean phanaeine size increased with mean body mass of the largest herbivorous and omnivorous mammals. Endemism was greater in ecoregions with on average smaller herbivorous and omnivorous mammals. On average, smaller phanaeines had more restricted distributions than larger species; ecoregional endemism and mean body size were negatively correlated.
Large phanaeines probably depend on large mammals to provide adequate food resources. Greater richness of smaller mammal species may allow for greater temporal and spatial resource partitioning and therefore greater phanaeine species richness. Low numbers of large mammal species may favour the persistence of geographically restricted phanaeine species by reducing interspecific competition with larger, more geographically widespread and presumably dominant phanaeines.
Cerrado, Southwest Amazonia and Yungas are priority ecoregions for phanaeine conservation due to high total and endemic species richness.