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Dung Beetle Community Composition in the Presence and Absence of Mesopredators in a Longleaf Pine Forest

Kelsea Young1,2, Alexandra Tsalickis1, Thomas N. Sheehan2, Kier D. Klepzig2,*, Michael S. Caterino3, and Jess A. Hartshorn1

1Department of Forestry and Environmental Conservation, Clemson University, Clemson, SC 29634. 2The Jones Center at Ichauway, 3988 Jones Center Drive, Newton, GA 39870. 3Western Carolina University, Department of Biology, Cullowhee, NC 28723. 4University of Kentucky, Department of Forestry and Natural Resources, Lexington, KY 40546. *Corresponding author.

Southeastern Naturalist, Volume 22, Issue 1 (2023): 78–90

Dung beetles provide essential ecosystem services and serve as biodiversity indicators. Despite their importance, no studies have assessed their role in Pinus palustris (Longleaf Pine) forests. We assessed dung beetle diversity and abundance in a pristine Longleaf Pine forest in southwest Georgia, USA, by collecting beetles with pitfall traps in sites that excluded mammalian mesopredators as well as unfenced control sites. We collected 22 dung beetle taxa in total over a 24-month period and found higher beetle abundance and species richness in exclosure sites, though they showed no preference for dung source (i.e., Odocoileus virginianus [White-tailed Deer], Lynx rufus [Bobcat], Canis latrans [Coyote]). Melanocanthon bispinatus was the most abundant species (49.6% of total beetles). Results provide insight into the interactions of dung beetles and predators in Longleaf Pine ecosystems.

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