The third and final dung beetle species imported to Australia as part of the Dung Beetle Ecosystem Engineer project is finally here – but how does it differ from the other two species?
The MLA-supported Dung Beetle Ecosystem Engineer (DBEE) project reached a major milestone last month – the arrival of a new dung beetle species, Gymnopleurus sturmi, on Australian shores.
Originally expected to arrive in Australia in 2021, the G. sturmi beetles have been biding their time in CSIRO’s lab in France due to COVID-19-related delays. As the pandemic swept across Europe, border closures restricted the movement of researchers and beetles alike.
However, with the world now well and truly out of lockdown, the research team has worked hard to roll out the red carpet for the new beetles on the block.
Here, CSIRO project lead Dr Valerie Caron introduces the G. sturmi species and outlines next steps.
How are G. sturmi dung beetles different to the other two species Australia has already imported through DBEE?
There’s a distinct difference between this species and the two that preceded it, Dr Caron said.
“The first two species [O. vacca and O. andalusicus] are tunnellers, which burrow dung straight into the ground to house eggs and feed larva,” she said.
“G. sturmi is a roller, which takes a chunk of dung, shapes it into a ball and rolls it away to bury it.”
While both of these behaviours reduce surface dung, the two different types of beetles working in synergy speed up the process.
“Tunnellers focus on the middle of a cow pat; rollers take dung from the sides,” Dr Caron said.
“Working together, both types of beetles disperse dung more quickly, deterring flies from laying eggs…and because G. sturmi aggregate on the surface in search of a partner, they trample the cow pat, too. This should further deter flies.”