Sisyphus Latreille, 1807
Sisyphus Latreille, 1807 is a genus of mostly African dung beetles with most species occurring in the Ethiopian region, it extends north into warmer parts of the southern Palaearctic and Asiatic regions and several species, among many other scarabaeidae, have been introduced into Australia to help clear dung deposited by non-native cattle etc. Two New World species are known from Mexico and at least one species is endemic to Mauritius.
A single species, S. Schaefferi (Linnaeus, 1758), occurs in Europe but does not extend into northern regions, including the UK. The European subspecies is S. s. schaefferi s.str, and two more subspecies, morio Arrow, 1909 and boschnaiki Fischer von Waldheim, 1823 occur in southern Russia. A xenothermophile, Central Europe is the northern boundary for the species; it occurs throughout the Mediterranean region, including North Africa, from Spain and France east through Asia Minor into Mongolia, northern China and Korea. In Europe it extends north into Belgium, Germany and Poland where, among several other European countries, it is considered to be critically endangered. In the Atlas Mountains of Morocco we have recorded them up to 2000m. In warmer parts of southern Europe the species can be very abundant and as it is an excellent flier it can rapidly colonize new sites. Typical habitat is dung pasture, especially on sandy soils or on loamy soils in limestone districts, usually in open or south facing and grassy situations. The usual host materials are sheep and cattle dung although it has also been recorded using deer droppings, and because the species usually inhabits warm and dry areas this is quickly buried for use as larval food. Brood burrows are usually initiated by males but females generally arrive soon after and both sexes will complete the job before they before they go off in search of dung. Fresh and moist dung is chosen and both sexes form a sample into ball and roll it back to the tunnel, often harassed by rivals in the process, and eventually the ball is inserted into the tunnel and followed in by the female while the male stands guard at the entrance. The female inserts a single egg is into the dung, its presence usually obvious by a swelling at the point of insertion, and then leaves the burrow and both sexes
Sisyphus schaefferi 1
Sisyphus schaefferi 2
Sisyphus schaefferi 3
Sisyphus schaefferi 4
form a sample into ball and roll it back to the tunnel, often harassed by rivals in the process, and eventually the ball is inserted into the tunnel and followed in by the female while the male stands guard at the entrance. The female inserts a single egg is into the dung, its presence usually obvious by a swelling at the point of insertion, and then leaves the burrow and both sexes seal off the entrance. They then fly off to start the process again, each pair producing 10-12 tunnels. Larvae emerge after a few days and their development typically takes around 90 days, pupation occurs in the burrow and new adults eclose in the summer. They become active but do not mate or dig brood tunnels and later on they will dig into the soil to overwinter. Emerging in the spring they spend a period feeding and becoming sexually mature before breeding, they may fly over considerable distances in search of dung and during bad weather may be found sheltering under logs or among litter etc. The adult lifespan is about a year and their season varies with latitude, late June or July until August or September in Northern Europe while in Italy typically June until October.
The tapering elytra and the form of the legs are distinctive among European scarabaeidae; the front legs are robust and fossorial while the middle and hind legs are long and slender; adapted for the beetle’s way of life. They fly with the elytra closed.
6.5-12 mm. Entirely black or dark brown, the elytra sometimes have a metallic lustre, dorsal surface with short, curved and dark setae. Vertex of head microsculptured and finely to moderately strongly punctured, clypeus widened and produced in front of the eyes, strongly microsculptured and covered with dense, granulate punctures, anterior half or more of the eyes divided by the lateral expansion of the clypeus. Antennae orange with a dark club, usually retracted into cavities under the eyes. Pronotum very convex, with strong microsculpture and wide and shallow punctures, lateral margin curved downward and finely bordered. Elytra strongly tapering towards the apex, epipleura well developed behind humerus; vertical and explanate, and visible from above behind the middle. Each elytron with 7 striae which are shiny and contain a single row of punctures, interstices dull, strongly microsculptured and finely punctured, each puncture bearing a short and backwardly-curved seta. Surface obliquely depressed from the humerus to inside a sub apical swelling, the extent of this depression varies greatly. Pygidium elongate, punctured and microsculptured and with a variable median longitudinal ridge. Fore tibiae well developed, with three large teeth and several smaller ones externally and a large internal apical spur, front tarsi slender and weakly developed. Middle and hind legs long and incurved, inner surface of the meta-tibiae, and tarsal segments 1-3, with a row of stiff and sharp spines. Hind femur angled internally so forming a backward pointing tooth, the trocanter is also produced and projects internally. Claws smooth and not toothed at the base.