In flying organisms, wing shape and biomechanical properties are recognized as key traits related to dispersal, foraging behavior, sexual selection and habitat preferences. To determine if differences in dung beetle wing shape and flight biomechanics are consistent with habitat preferences in a phylogenetic context, we examined how wing morphology varied in a set of 18 Mozambique forest and grassland dung beetle (Scarabaeinae) species, representing nine genera and six tribes. Geometric morphometric measurements were taken of entire wings, as well as two additional shape characters comprising the RA4 and CuA to J regions of veins. Ordination (Principal Components Analysis and Canonical Variate Analysis) of landmark data revealed three different trends in wing shape related to expansion or contraction in external wing margins. These trends were consistent with published dung beetle phylogenies and a phylogenetic reconstruction of ancestral morphological changes using parsimony analysis of wing landmark configurations. Analysis of variance showed that the Procrustes distances between wing shapes were significantly correlated to species identity (~ 48% of variance), wing size (~ 27%), habitat (~ 11%) and two of the three, tested, biomechanical variables (wing loading, wing aspect ratio: ~ 1%). However, while a phylogenetic generalized least squares analysis confirmed a strongly significant phylogenetic signal for wing shape, it found no significant effect of any other variable. Therefore, wing shape evolution in dung beetles appears to have been phylogenetically constrained and habitat may constitute only a weak selective pressure for changes in wing shape.
The following information is provided regarding data availability: The raw data are available in Supplementary Material 1, 2, 3 and 5. The script for the morphometric and statistical analyses in R is provided in Supplementary Material 4. Additional results are provided in Figures 1S and 2S.