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Picture: The collage contains six photos and a graphic. Photo 1 shows a forest dung beetle of the species Anoplotrupes stercorosus on a wilted beech leaf. Photo 2 shows a manure bait trap in a meadow. It is a plastic cup with a stick sticking up above its opening, from the top of which hangs a small bag of dung. When trying to reach the bag, beetles crawl up the cup and then fall into it. Next to the trap, there is a thin wooden stick stuck in the ground with a little blue tag with a C on the tip. Photo 3 shows a view from above into a cup whose bottom is covered with trapped forest dung beetles. Photo 4 shows a beaker with many captured Aphodius beetles. Photos 5 and 6 show experiments on the decomposition of dung, once in a meadow, once in the forest. In both cases, several dung balls are lying on the ground on a piece of cloth and there are marking sticks stuck next to them. The graph illustrates the distribution of six dung beetle species on six types of dung.

We predict that dung removal increases both with the density and biodiversity of beetles. Local livestock density and composition as well as other forms of land use may affect dung beetle activities. While dung contamination by veterinary parasiticides is known to negatively affect beetle performance, dung decomposition may be more resilient in more diverse beetle communities.

Beetles utilize dung volatiles, which are partly degradation products of nutritional ingredients, as cues to find suitable resources. Differences in nutrient and volatile composition may thus explain variation in activity and specificity of beetles across different dung types, which will be investigated with dung and odour traps. Key kairomonal cues will be identified and investigated in field experiments. Their significance as predictors for dung beetle preferences will be tested.


The following methods are employed to survey the dung beetle abundance, community composition and dung decomposition rate in all 300 EPs (grasslands and forests) and to understand the preferences of dung beetles for certain types of dung. Six dung types are used: cow, sheep, horse, wild boar, deer and fox.

  • Dung-baited pitfall traps: dung beetles are attracted by the scent emissions of small dung samples in tea bags and fall into a cup. Beetles are collected after 48 hours.
  • Laid-out dung piles: dung removal rate per 48 hours is quantified. Many dung beetles bury dung into the soil during this time.
  • Chemical analyses (nutrients, volatiles) and scent-baited pitfall traps
Picture: The collage contains six photos and a graphic. Photo 1 shows a forest dung beetle of the species Anoplotrupes stercorosus on a wilted beech leaf. Photo 2 shows a manure bait trap in a meadow. It is a plastic cup with a stick sticking up above its opening, from the top of which hangs a small bag of dung. When trying to reach the bag, beetles crawl up the cup and then fall into it. Next to the trap, there is a thin wooden stick stuck in the ground with a little blue tag with a C on the tip. Photo 3 shows a view from above into a cup whose bottom is covered with trapped forest dung beetles. Photo 4 shows a beaker with many captured Aphodius beetles. Photos 5 and 6 show experiments on the decomposition of dung, once in a meadow, once in the forest. In both cases, several dung balls are lying on the ground on a piece of cloth and there are marking sticks stuck next to them. The graph illustrates the distribution of six dung beetle species on six types of dung.
Illustrations - Top: The common forest dung beetle Anoplotrupes stercorosus and a dung beetle network illustrating the distribution of six dung beetle species on six dung sites. Bottom: Dung bait trap in a meadow with two examples of catches in cups (large Anoplotrupes and small Aphodius beetles). Dung decomposition experiment in a meadow and forest. photos by Kevin Frank.

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Der Einfluss chemischer Signale auf Dungpräferenzen von Dungkäfern
Abele M. (2015): Der Einfluss chemischer Signale auf Dungpräferenzen von Dungkäfern. Bachelor thesis, University Würzburg
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Ecosystem resilience, biodiversity and land-use intensity: Effect of a parasiticide on dung decomposition
Ökosystem-Resilienz, Biodiversität und Landnutzungsintensität: Auswirkungen eines Parasitizids auf Dungabbau
Dirks R. (2015): Ecosystem resilience, biodiversity and land-use intensity: Effect of a parasiticide on dung decomposition. Bachelor thesis, Leuphana University Lüneburg
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Frank F., Brückner A., Hilpert A., Heethoff M., Blüthgen N. (2017): Nutrient quality of vertebrate dung as a diet for dung beetles. Scientific Reports 7:12141. doi: 10.1038/s41598-017-12265-y
More information:  doi.org
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Frank K. (2018): Land-use responses of dung beetle communities and their ecosystem services. Dissertation, TU Darmstadt
More information:  tuprints.ulb.tu-darmstadt.de
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Frank K., Brückner A., Blüthgen N., Schmitt T. (2018): In search of cues: dung beetle attraction and the significance of volatile composition of dung. Chemoecology 28 (4–5), 145–152. doi: 10.1007/s00049-018-0266-4
More information:  doi.org
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Einfluss der Landnutzung auf Dungkäfergemeinschaften und deren Ökosystemfunktion in Wald und Grünland
Frank K., Hülsmann M., Assmann T., Schmitt T., Blüthgen N. (2017): Land use affects dung beetle communities and their ecosystem services in forests and grasslands. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment 243, 114-122. doi: 10.1016/j.agee.2017.04.010
More information:  doi.org
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Frank K., Krell F.-T., Slade E. M., Raine E. H., Chiew, L. Y., Schmitt T., Vairappan C. S., Walter P., Blüthgen N. (2018): Global dung webs: high trophic generalism of dung beetles along the latitudinal diversity gradient. Ecology Letters 21 (8), 1229-1236. doi: 10.1111/ele.13095
More information:  doi.org
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Dungpräferenzen bei heimischen Mistkäferarten
Geyer M. (2014): Dungpräferenzen bei heimischen Mistkäferarten. Bachelor thesis, University Würzburg

Scientific assistants

Prof. Dr. Thorsten Aßmann
Project manager
Prof. Dr. Thorsten Aßmann
Prof. Dr. Thomas Schmitt
Project manager
Prof. Dr. Thomas Schmitt
Prof. Dr. Nico Blüthgen
Project manager
Prof. Dr. Nico Blüthgen
Technische Universität Darmstadt
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