Systematics of the enigmatic South American Streblopus Van Lansberge, 1874 dung beetles and their transatlantic origin: a case study on the role of dispersal events in the biogeographical history of the Scarabaeinae (Coleoptera: Scarabaeidae)

  • Mario Cupello Universidade Federal do Paraná, Departamento de Zoologia, Laboratório de Sistemática e Bioecologia de Coleoptera, Centro Politécnico, Jardim das Américas, CEP 81531-980, Curitiba, PR
  • Cibele S. Ribeiro-Costa Universidade Federal do Paraná, Departamento de Zoologia, Laboratório de Sistemática e Bioecologia de Coleoptera, Centro Politécnico, Jardim das Américas, CEP 81531-980, Curitiba, PR
  • Fernando Z. Vaz-de-Mello Universidade Federal de Mato Grosso, Instituto de Biociências, Departamento de Biologia e Zoologia, Av. Fernando Correa da Costa, 2367, Boa Esperança, Cuiabá, MT, 78060-900
Keywords: Africa, Atlantic Ocean, rafting, Circellium, Scarabaeini


Streblopus Van Lansberge, 1874 has been one of the most mysterious dung beetle groups of the Neotropical fauna, having a rather peculiar morphology, very few known specimens in collections and a difficult placement among the scarabaeine lineages. In this work, based on the examination of a recently collected series of specimens and a synthesis of some scattered, but deeply valuable, information available in the literature, we readdress many of the questions posed by past authors. It is shown that Streblopus is a relict genus composed of two currently living species of widely disjunct distribution, namely S. opatroides Van Lansberge, 1874, from patches of Atlantic Forest in the Brazilian states of Bahia and Espírito Santo, and S. punctatus (Balthasar, 1938), known from a few localities across Sub-Andean humid forests in the Peruvian and Ecuadorian Amazon Forest. We redescribe both and present in detail the evidence pointing to their validity as two independent species; a discussion of their remarkable sexual dimorphism is also given. The biogeography of Streblopus in South America is addressed, and we conclude that the present disjunct distribution of the genus is a consequence of the retreat of the tropical forest corridors that once connected the Atlantic Forest to the Amazon Basin through the South American Dry Diagonal during several periods of the Neogene, particularly until the Middle Miocene. Finally, we propose an African origin for the genus based on its close phylogenetic relationship with a group of Old World taxa ‒ particularly Circellium Latreille, 1825 and Scarabaeini. Having diverged from those groups in the late Upper Cretaceous, we argue that the ancestor of Streblopus arrived in South America crossing the Atlantic Ocean by rafting. We present a synthesis of data from a wide variety of biological groups to support our ideas and contend that long-distance dispersal hypotheses should be taken more seriously by scarab beetle specialists.


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How to Cite
Cupello, M., Ribeiro-Costa, C. S., & Vaz-de-Mello, F. Z. (2020). Systematics of the enigmatic South American Streblopus Van Lansberge, 1874 dung beetles and their transatlantic origin: a case study on the role of dispersal events in the biogeographical history of the Scarabaeinae (Coleoptera: Scarabaeidae). European Journal of Taxonomy, (603).