This species was described from Caffraria (Boheman 1857), an inexact region often considered to be centred on the modern South African province of KwaZulu-Natal and the adjoining part of the Eastern Cape. It is restricted to the dry and moist savannas of southeast Africa, primarily in northeast South Africa, southern Mozambique and Zimbabwe (Australian CSIRO 1970-1986, unpublished records). Reports from Botswana and Namibia remain unverified, but may represent marginal occurrence close to some Zimbabwean and South African localities. Records from Kenya (Schoolmeesters 2011) would be erroneous (A. Davis pers. obs. 2012).
Habitat and Ecology
In Mkuzi Game Reserve in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, trapping to composite baits of pig, horse and cattle dung recorded this large-bodied, ball-rolling, day-active species in abundance (total 1,189) in open woodland or shaded locations across a range of soil types comprising deep sand (31.7 per trap), duplex soils of sand overlying clay (27.6 per trap), and sandy clay loam (makatini) (46.6 per trap), with lower abundance on clay (8.8 per trap) (Doube 1991). Using composite baits of pig, cattle and elephant dung, numbers of this species were lower in wooded farm rangeland (58.1 or 36.5 per trap) than in the adjoining Kruger National Park (81.7 or 97.8 per trap) but still present in great abundance (Davis et al. 2012). This species has been collected across various soil types, including sand, sandy loam, and clay in savanna woodland regions, although records have been made in pasture as well as open woodland on a wide range of dung types including, cattle, buffalo, wildebeest, white rhinoceros, elephant and baboon dung as well as a mixture of human and cattle dung (Australian CSIRO 1970-1986, unpublished records). The species shows a summer activity period from the first rains, usually October or November, until late summer in February or March although females generally became less common in the middle of this period when they were tending a single brood ball, containing the developing immature stages, that is housed in a chamber in the soil (Edwards 1988). At the end of the summer rainy season, females may emerge to feed, enter dormancy, or breed for a second time, tending the brood during the dry season. A single rainfall event is sufficient to drive continuance of populations of this species. Although both sexes roll food balls, a ball intended for breeding purposes is larger and is often constructed by pairs at a dung source, from which it is rolled away by the male with the female clinging to the ball. If such a ball is constructed by a single male, it is rolled to a burial site where he releases a pheromone, using a typical head-down release stance with the back legs extended into the air, in order to attract a female. Such activity is generally observed in the cooler temperatures fairly early in the day (Edwards 1988, Edwards and Aschenborn 1988).
This species is found in a block of moister savanna woodlands in southeast Africa, particularly in Southern Miombo woodlands (AT0719), Maputaland coastal forest mosaic (AT0199), moister parts of the Zambezian and Mopane woodlands (AT0725), and the moister south of the Southern Africa bushveld (AT0717), lower-altitude woodlands in the east of the Drakensberg montane grasslands, woodlands and forests (AT1004) and marginally in a few other peripheral ecoregions (ecoregions based on Olson et al. 2001).
Some environmental characteristics for 72 locality records are as follows: altitude: mean: 711 ± 533 (S.D.), range: 11-1,670 m; annual rainfall: mean: 742 ± 193 (S.D.), range: 408-1,415 mm; annual temperature: mean: 20.5 ± 2.4 (S.D.), range: 15.5-25.2oC (max. + min. / 2).
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
Scarabaeus (Kheper) nigroaeneus has been assessed as Least Concern. This species has an estimated extent of occurrence of more than one million km2 and is abundant in some game reserves and some farmland areas. It has been reported from a variety of mammalian herbivore dung types and is, therefore, unlikely to be adversely affected by changes in dung type availability across its range, although clearance of woodland habitat may constitute a localized threat. Additional research into the effect of woodland clearance is required to establish if this could pose a serious threat to this species.
This species is abundant in some game reserves, but may occur at much lower population density in farmland (A. Davis pers. obs. 2012).
It is unlikely that this species is currently adversely affected by threat processes across its range. However, if this species occurs primarily in open woodland, clearance of woodland is likely to be detrimental over time. Further research is needed to establish the extent of woodland association for this species in order to assess the severity of this threat.
There are no species-specific conservation actions in place for this species. As this species is abundant on various mammal dung types in Mkuzi Game Reserve and the Kruger National Park in South Africa, it is probably well protected at the present time. However, a survey needs to be conducted to determine its relative association with woodland savanna in order to assess the effects of clearance of woodland over large parts of its known range.
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