Michael Neulinger


The Alimentary Tract of South African Monkey Beetles (Scarabaeidae:Hopliini)

MSc Student
Advisor: Harald Krenn

Unit for Integrative Zoology, Department of Evolutionary Biology
University of Vienna


Monkey beetles are South African species of the tribe Hopliini (Scarabaeidae), which are a megadiverse group of about 1200 species worldwide. Monkey beetles are flower-visiting beetles and are an important pollination guild of many endemic plant species in the Great Cape Floristic Region of South Africa. South African Monkey Beetles often show sexual dimorphism, mostly males with enlarged hind legs or color differences. Many species have evolved different diets, some feed on plant material or pollen, and others ingest nectar. Today, the digestive tract morphology of various insect species is still underrepresented in the scientific field. Morphological comparisons of digestive tracts of beetles with different diets are lacking, probably due to uniform diets in most beetle tribes. This specialization in their diets and their close inter-species relationships makes South African monkey beetles interesting for comparative morphology to investigate characteristics of the mouthparts or digestive tracts, in relation to food type. As my master thesis project, I am investigating, if there are morphological alimentary tract differences in monkey beetles with different diets. Modern micro-CT and 3D imaging along with computer-based, measurements are valuable tools to provide more insight into the under-explored world of specialized beetle gut morphology.