Tropical dung beetle morphological traits predict functional traits and show intraspecific differences across land uses
Ecology and Evolution
© 2018 The Authors. Ecology and Evolution published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd. Functional traits and functional diversity measures are increasingly being used to examine land use effects on biodiversity and community assembly rules. Morphological traits are often used directly as functional traits. However, behavioral characteristics are more difficult to measure. Establishing methods to derive behavioral traits from morphological measurements is necessary to facilitate their inclusion in functional diversity analyses. We collected morphometric data from over 1,700 individuals of 12 species of dung beetle to establish whether morphological measurements can be used as predictors of behavioral traits. We also compared morphology among individuals collected from different land uses (primary forest, logged forest, and oil palm plantation) to identify whether intraspecific differences in morphology vary among land use types. We show that leg and eye measurements can be used to predict dung beetle nesting behavior and period of activity and we used this information to confirm the previously unresolved nesting behavior for Synapsis ritsemae. We found intraspecific differences in morphological traits across different land use types. Phenotypic plasticity was found for traits associated with dispersal (wing aspect ratio and wing loading) and reproductive capacity (abdomen size). The ability to predict behavioral functional traits from morphology is useful where the behavior of individuals cannot be directly observed, especially in tropical environments where the ecology of many species is poorly understood. In addition, we provide evidence that land use change can cause phenotypic plasticity in tropical dung beetle species. Our results reinforce recent calls for intraspecific variation in traits to receive more attention within community ecology.