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Scientists are growing increasingly concerned that a declining population of dung beetles could spell trouble for the ecosystems of which they form an important part.

Dung beetles collect animal faeces and bury them, enriching the soil and helping plants to regenerate. But a study published in Science this week shows that in the forests of eastern Venezuela, dung beetles are disappearing.

The larger species, and those best at burying dung, have been the first to go. Alarmingly, related species did not become more abundant as a result. The authors of the study are concerned that the loss of even one or two species may have a greater impact than previously thought on ecosystems.

Link to full article in Science

Reference: Science 305, 1230 (2004)