The action of post-dispersal beetles (Coleoptera: Scarabaeidae) and ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) on scats of Didelphis spp. (Mammalia: Didelphidae)
A two year study of dung beetles and ants acting on scats of two species of opossum (Didelphis spp.) was carried out. Scats were left in the field in order to detect post-dispersal agents. A portion of each scat (30%) was examined for seeds in the laboratory. Beetles were recovered from burrows (51 % of 84 faecal samples left in the field) where they either buried scats of opossums or were attracted, together with ants, to pitfalls (N= 10) baited with opossum scats. Dung beetles were the main post-dispersal agents of seeds found in scats of opossums, rolling the scats away or burying then on the site of deposition. They buried faeces at 4 to 15 cm in depth (N= 22 tunnels). The main dung beetles identified (medium to large size) were Eurysternus (28.7 % in pitfalls) and Dichotomius (13.7 %), Coprophanaeus (seen only directly on faeces), besides small-bodied beetles (<10 mm; 57.6 %). The ant Acromirmex sp. transported some seeds from scats. This species was present in 25.5% of all Formicidae samples (pitfall). These post-dispersal agents contribute to avert scat seed predators such as rodents, and to accelerate seed bank formation.