South American Scarab Dung Beetle

The South American Scarab Dung Beetle (Oxysternon conspicillatum) is a species of dung beetle of the superfamily Scarabaeoidea. Most Scarab beetles are known as true dung beetles as they feed mainly on feces. Dung beetles live in many different habitats, including desert,
farmland, forest, and grasslands. They do not like extremely cold or dry weather.

This beetle species is trimorphic (able to produce up to three different types of males). Each male has different forms of body weaponry for use when competing for mates. The alpha male typically has a large head horn display. The beta male usually has much smaller horns and both gamma males and females have no head horns at all.

The mating system of trimorphic species, such as the dung beetle, can be difficult especially with the smaller males and the males without weaponry. The betas and gammas sometimes will employ alternative and less aggressive reproductive tactics as they are less likely to prevail in direct combat with the alphas. The gamma male is also female-like in form and this seems to be a tactic employed by nature to deceive and evade combat.

Though very rare, trimorphism is known to exist in other species, but the three forms are determined by genetics. In dung beetles, however, trimorphism is more determined by individual expression and natural surroundings and environmental conditions.

Dung beetles play an important role in agriculture. By burying and consuming dung, they improve soil structure and cycling of nutrients. Livestock, such as cattle, benefit from this beetle as well, as dung can provide habitat for pests such as flies. Many countries have introduced the beetle for the benefit of animal husbandry. It has been introduced in developing countries to help improve hygiene standards. It is estimated that dung beetles save the United States cattle industry $380 million annually through burying and consuming above-ground livestock feces.

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