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a group of beetles of the family Scarabaeidae; the group includes the subfamilies Aphodiinae, Geotrupinae, and Scarabaeinae. Dung beetles measure from 3 to 70 mm long and usually are brown or black; sometimes they have a metallic sheen. Both the beetles and larvae feed primarily on dung; a few species feed on carrion, and still others are vegetarians. The females lay their eggs in the excreta of various animals, primarily mammals. Certain dung beetles, such as the Aphodiinae, use clumps of dung on the surface of the ground for egg laying; others roll the dung into egg, pear, or sausage shapes and then bury it in the earth. The parents of several species guard their young until development into beetles. The males often play an equal role in caring for the young.
There are more than 6, 000 species of dung beetles. They are particularly common in tropical countries. In the USSR there are approximately 450 species of dung beetles of the genera Scarabaeus, Copris, and Onthophagus.
Dung beetles play an important ecological role by removing and burying excreta. However, some dung beetles are temporary hosts of parasitic worms.
O. L. KRYZHANOVSKII