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An iridescent dung beetle from Spain

Dung beetle (Trypocopris [=Geotrupes] pyrenaeus var. coruscans) Galicia, Spain. Aug 2017
I have written about this beetle before (1), but it is so beautiful I thought that it would be worth posting a few more photographs which I took this summer. It is a large (about an inch in old money) dor beetle, found in north-west regions of the Iberian Peninsula. It is relatively common on the heather-clad hills of Galicia in the summer, and on warm days these shiny green beetles can be seen flying through the pine forests like little helicopters. They search out horse droppings; Galician ponies are common on the hills.

Dung beetle (Trypocopris [=Geotrupes] pyrenaeus var. coruscans) Aug 2017
There are a number (at least 4) subspecies of Trypocopris pyrenaeus, which are present in Andorra, British Islands, Bulgaria, France, Italy, Luxembourg and Spain (3). A shiny, black variety of this species, called the Heath dumble dor beetle, Trypocopris pyrenaeus (Charpentier, 1825), occurs in UK in places like the New Forest. It is rare but not threatened.

Dung beetle (Trypocopris [=Geotrupes] pyrenaeus var. var. coruscans) duller form
There are two forms of this beetle, a shiny one and a dull one (above). I am wondering whether these are the two sexes. Structural colours like the shiny iridescence on these beetles is sometimes used as an ‘honest signal’ of fitness and might be used by the females to select males with which to mate with.

Dung beetle (Trypocopris [=Geotrupes] pyrenaeus var. coruscans) in horse dung
The UV iridescence produced by male wings of butterflies such blue Morphos, is an example of  a secondary sexual character which females evaluate when choosing males with which to mate with. These ‘structural colour badges’ are thought to be honest signals, or reliable information if you will, of the phenotypic condition of the males. Could these beetles be using the same system? There are other species of dung beetle where the females use the shiny iridescence of males to make their choice of mates. (4). Scope for a research study perhaps? The beetles are relatively abundant in the summer and it would make a great project for a PhD student.

Dung beetle (Trypocopris [=Geotrupes] pyrenaeus var. coruscans) in horse dung. Dull form (females?)
And just because they are beautiful, here is a photograph of the dung providers!

Galician ponies producing dung for beetles!

Links and references

  4. Vulinec, K. (1997). Iridescent dung beetles: a different angle. Florida entomologist, 132-141.

rcannon992 View All

I am an entomologist with a background in quarantine pests and invasive invertebrates. I studied zoology at Imperial College (University of London) and did a PhD on the population dynamics of a cereal aphid (Metopolophium dirhodum) in the UK. I spent 5 years with the British Antarctic Survey studing cold hardiness of Antarctic invertebates and 17 years with the Food and Environment Research Agency. My main interests now are natural history, photography, painting and bird watching.

5 thoughts on “An iridescent dung beetle from Spain Leave a comment

  1. Thank you. They are quite nippy these beetles, so you have to sort of track them from above, although if you turn them upside down they have to flip themselves back over again! That”s the time for a good shot!😁

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