Can dung beetles from the palaeoecological and archaeological record indicate herd concentration and the identity of herbivores?

David Smith, Kalla Nayyar, NJ Whitehouse, Danielle Schreve, Richard Thomas

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Abstract

We present the results from two analogue studies that examine two aspects of dung beetle populations. The degree to which the proportions of dung beetles in terrestrial faunas may reflect herd concentration is assessed by comparing modern sub-fossil faunas retrieved from a range of small ponds at Dunham Massey, Cheshire and Epping Forest in London. These studies suggest that it may be possible to use the proportions of ‘dung beetles’ recovered to differentiate high from low density grazing pressures in the palaeoentomological and archaeoentomological record.

A second study examines the insect faunas recovered from modern samples of dung from a range of bovids, cervids, suids and equids, chosen to replicate, as closely as possible, Pleistocene taxa. These include the famous Chillingham cattle herd from Northumberland and herds of red deer, wild boar and Konik horses from Kent. When the numbers of individuals and the nature and range of beetles in the whole fauna are considered, it may be possible to differentiate between the dung of a range of different animals.

A number of limitations with the present study, their implications and the future potential of this type of study are outlined.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)119-130
Number of pages12
JournalQuaternary International
Volume341
Early online date21 Jan 2014
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 18 Aug 2014

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